Low-cost detection of contamination and disease

We present a portable multi-channel, multi-sample UV/vis absorption and fluorescence detection device, which has no moving parts, can operate wirelessly and on batteries, interfaces with smart mobile phones or tablets, and has the sensitivity of commercial instruments costing an order of magnitude more. We use UV absorption to measure the concentration of ethylene glycol in water solutions at all levels above those deemed unsafe by the United States Food and Drug Administration; in addition we use fluorescence to measure the concentration of d-glucose. Both wavelengths can be used concurrently to increase measurement robustness and increase detection sensitivity. Our small robust economical device can be deployed in the absence of laboratory infrastructure, and therefore may find applications immediately following natural disasters, and in more general deployment for much broader-based testing of food, agricultural and household products to prevent outbreaks of poisoning and disease.


  1. Peter J. Lu et al., “Robust and economical multi-sample, multi-wavelength UV/vis absorption and fluorescence detector for biological and chemical contamination” AIP Advances. 2, 032110 (2012). [pdf]
  2. Melanie M. Hoehl, Peter J. Lu, Peter A. Sims, Alexander H. Slocum, “Rapid and Robust Detection Methods for Poison and Microbial Contamination” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 60, 6349–6358 (2012). [pdf] [Supp. Info]