Our latest FoodSmartphone paper: “Explained”

Hey everyone,

First of all, my sincere wishes for a successful and happy new year!

I guess most of you like to watch series using streaming services. As a Netflix user (this is not a commercial ad) and a science lover, I have watched “Explained” series. “Explained” deals with every day topics from a scientific perspective, but presents it in a way that the wider public can understand. Pretty much what the FoodSmartphone blog presents during the last 2.5 years.



Consequently, I decided to”explain” you our recently published paper. I cordially encourage you to follow the link to our open-access publication, https://www.mdpi.com/1424-8220/19/24/5579, and re-share it to any social network! The dissemination of our results of utmost importance as it reflects the Marie-Curie Actions impact on society.

Using the title of our study, I will “explain” you its function and usefulness. So the title is, “A Hybrid Lab-on-a-Chip Injector System for Autonomous Carbofuran Screening”.

Indeed, a quite scientific/difficult/complicated title. But let’s give it a try:

  • Lab-on-a-Chip Injector: a device that integrates one or several laboratory functions on a very small device (mm to cm dimensions) meaning that it’s fully portable. For those you don’t know, portability is a very rare characteristic since mostly big-heavy instruments are used. In our case, this device is able to inject liquid volumes, for example samples and chemicals, which is commonly executed using lab-tools called pipettes. Another interesting feature is that such devices can be 3D-printed (in our study) using commercial low-cost 3D-printers (from 150 €).
Image result for lab-on-a-chip
Lab-on-a-chip concept: A portable lab in our pockets
  • System: Following the development of the aforementioned device, we created a robust system including  two “magical” small paper pieces and a smartphone. These paper pieces are incorporated in the lab-on-a-chip injector and “accommodate” a chemical reaction which develops a color. The intensity of the developed color is monitored using the smartphone camera. In other words, the smartphone is used as a color reader in a similar way to lab instruments. However, the significant difference  is the cost. Our system can be produced even by a science enthusiastic individual with a minimum cost (0.30 € / injector + a commercial low-cost smartphone ~ 100-200 €) whereas a lab instrument costs from ~3.000 € up to half a million € depending on its capabilities. 
The Lab-on-a-Chip Injector System recorded by a commercial low-cost smartphone
  • Autonomous: Commonly, chemical analysis needs a trained operator and (of course) a lab. This is not the case for our method! At the moment, the developed method can be partly performed out of a lab. Importantly, it has the potential to be 100% portable and applicable by a non-expert. This is the future of food analysis…
  • Carbofuran Screening: Carbofuran is a pesticide used globally in agriculture. Although carbofuran use is forbidden in the EU, there are still countries using it. Therefore, imported foods from certain countries may still contain carbofuran residues. Unfortunately, carbofuran is neurotoxic and harmful for humans so it’s necessary to detect it in order to protect consumer’s health. Commonly, pesticides are detected using lab-instruments which are expensive and time-consuming. In our case, the presence of carbofuran in fruits and vegetables can be rapidly screened using the described analytical platform.
Furadan 3G, the commercial product including carbofuran

To sum-up, I hope to satisfactory explain you the principles. If you have any question don’t hesitate to ask 😉

Finallyl, working on complicated/technical topics which are applied to solve everyday needs is usually “painful”, including many failures and downsides. Nevertheless, when  something is achieved nice stories (like the one above) are written and higher ambitions are created. That’s why we will continue working during 2020 until we reach our final point in 6 months time!

Until then keep safe and thanks for reading my post.




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