UCLA smartphone virus scanner
Scientists have finally developed a technology that makes it possible to avoid a trip to the doctor. The UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science scientists have created a lightweight, virus-detecting device that attaches to a common smartphone and is able to scan the human body for human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) particles. The troublesome virus is the root of various illnesses, including birth defects like deafness and brain damage. HCMV can also expedite the death of adults who have HIV, a weak immune system and those who have undergone organ transplants, making early detection of the virus useful.
The device weighs less than half a pound and attaches directly onto a smartphone camera. It contains a color filter, external lens and a laser diode that is able to scan for HCMV particles, which measures about 150–300 nanometers. To put that into perspective, the thickness of a human hairis roughly 100,000 nanometers, which means the device can see items that are one-thousandth that width that are practically invisible to the naked eye.
Detection of such tiny particles are possible because the microscope scans and illuminates its subject at an angle of around 75 degrees, which allows it to avoid extraneous scattered light that would otherwise cause interference. It is also tough to capture clear images of such small particles since the optical and signal abilities of previous devices depreciate as objects become smaller than a wavelength of light.
The UCLA team also conducted a separate experiment to test the lengths of the devices’ scanning ability. The experiment was a success, as the device was able to detect even tinier 90-100 nanometer fluorescent polystyrene beads. All experiments were crosschecked with other bulkier imaging devices like a scanning electron and photon-counting confocal microscope to confirm the results.