Water quality is a concern around the world and that’s why researchers at University of Houston are working on a citizen science program utilizing smartphones, according to a post at Phys.org. It started last year when Wei-Chuan Shih, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, rallied his lab to create DotLens, a small 3D printed piece that fits over a phone’s camera to transform it into a microscope. Not only was that lens a success, but Shih received a grant from the National Science Foundation to create a system that will encourage people to investigate their local water quality.
According to the post, the team is creating a 3D printed narrow-band light, which will help identify waterborne pathogens.
Shih said the system initially will test for two types of pathogen: Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium parvum, both of which can enter the body through the nose and mouth and cause intestinal infection. They can be serious–a 1993 outbreak of Cryptosporidium parvum in Milwaukee affected more than 400,000 people, according to a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What attracted me to the post was the photo at the top which actually shows protists, an ostracod and spirogyra from a pond. It reminded me of a wearable bio-sensor project I participated in which revealed micro-organisms around seeds on a Petri dish style pendant. It was exciting seeing the detail under my USB microscope and certainly made me more mindful of dusting under my bed. In the case of this smartphone project, people of all ages may learn to look for pathogens with the future possibility of posting them online on a map. Not only will the information add to the data of our waterways, but it will also make people aware of the many water quality issues we face.
Have something you’d like to see closer? You should check out our USB Microscope which allows you to take some cool pics of anything from leaves to PCBs. In fact, it’s the very microscope used on the “Ask an Engineer” show. Tiny things are out there waiting to be discovered!