This Smartphone Spoilage Sensor Knows if Your Meal Is Tainted

That taco you just ate may not have smelled suspect but if it harbored e coli you could be in for a few days of food poisoning. A new phone-based imaging device could one day spot the gut-busting bugs before they make you sick.

The device, developed by researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, uses fluorescent imaging to detect for e coli in both food and water. Researchers paired quantum dots with tiny glass capillaries containing e coli antibodies. If the bacteria is present in a liquid sample, the quantum dots will emit light that will be detected by the phone's camera—the more light emitted, the greater the e coli concentration.

The device is still in early development so there's no word on if or when it will reach market but, given the regularity with which e coli infections occur (even in developed countries), a low-cost scanning system could help keep future breakouts in check. [UCLA via PopSci]