NASA Ames Scientist Develops Chemical Sensor For the iPhone

The chemical sensing prototype plugged into an iPhone 30-pin dock connector with the display-side up. Larger image. Photo credit: Dominic Hart/NASA

Jing Li, a physical scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., along with other researchers working under the Cell-All program in the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, developed a proof of concept of new technology that would bring compact, low-cost, low-power, high-speed nanosensor-based chemical sensing capabilities to cell phones.

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The device Li developed is about the size of a postage stamp and is designed to be plugged in to an iPhone to collect, process and transmit sensor data. The new device is able to detect and identify low concentrations of airborne ammonia, chlorine gas and methane. The device senses chemicals in the air using a "sample jet" and a multiple-channel silicon-based sensing chip, which consists of 16 nanosensors, and sends detection data to another phone or a computer via telephone communication network or Wi-Fi.

The latest-generation of the chemical detector board, about the size of a postage stamp, sensing chip facing up. Larger image. Photo credit: Dominic Hart/NASA

The latest-generation of the chemical detector board, about the size of a postage stamp, sensing chip facing down. Larger image. Photo credit: Dominic Hart/NASA

The latest-generation of the multiple-channel silicon-based sensing chip, which consists of 64 nanosensors, and is less than one square centimeter. Each side has 16 nanosensors – all that is required for cell phone use. Larger image. Photo credit: Dominic Hart/NASA

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