A microscope in your pocket… and your phone

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

There are germs everywhere. On door handles, on your toys, and even inside your mouth! While some germs are harmless, other germs can get you really sick. The problem is, germs are microscopic – they are too small to see with our eyes. So, how are we supposed to tell which germs can make us sick?

iphone microscopeWell, that’s what some researchers at the University of Illinois were thinking too. So, they invented a biosensor for the iPhone to do just that. What’s a biosensor? Well, it’s a device that detects different microscopic forms of life, such as viruses, bacteria, and other icky germs that can make you sick.

Now, the biosensor comes in two parts. The first part is an accessory you can put on the phone, almost like a phone case. How cool! By using the iPhone’s camera, this accessory acts like a microscope. It sees things that are too small for our eyes to see and makes them bigger! If you wanted to test something for germs, all you would have to do is take a small piece and slide it into the sensor.

The second part of the biosensor is an app for the phone. While the accessory for the phone can help us see the germs, the app tells us what the germs are. It would take only a few minutes to scan and identify anything you wanted!

The researcher who invented this app says it can be really helpful. It could be used to see if the water you’re drinking is clean or even if there are certain germs in your food! The researchers are still working on ways to improve the biosensor, so you can’t walk into a store and buy it just yet. But who knows, maybe in a few years, you could test everything just like a real scientist, using your trusty iPhone microscope!