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  • NASA Scientist Makes a Chemical Sensor out of an iPhone


    A NASA scientist has come up with a working prototype of chemical-sniffing circuitry as a test of technology that could one day become standard equipment on cell phones in the US. The sensing device attaches to the bottom of an iPhone and uses the data connection to collect, process and report the results.

    Jing Li, a physical scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in California developed this prototype as 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. Li worked with other researchers under a grant from the "Cell-All" program of the US Department of Homeland Security to develop tools that would better enable the government to quickly respond in case of a chemical release or terror attack.

    The circuitry the team came up with is about the size of a postage stamp and plugs into an iPhone's dock port. It's able to detect and identify low concentrations of ammonia, chlorine gas and methane using something called a "sample jet" and a multiple-channel silicon-based sensing chip, which consists of 16 nanosensors. The phone processes the data, stores it, and can send detection data to another phone or a computer using either the 3G or WiFi data network.

    The Cell-All program "is designed to provide greater detection capabilities in areas where people congregate," according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate.
    The concept allows for chemical agent detectors to ultimately be everywhere where there are cellular telephones. At the option of the cell phone owner, the GPS in the phone could provide sensor location information to emergency operation centers.
    While the technology is years away from widespread implementation, it's another indication that cell phones are spreading the ubiquity of surveillance tools. Along with the ability to remotely turn on a cell's microphone without the user being aware, any future sensing tools built into mobile phones offer both powerful tools for law enforcement, and potential dangers to privacy.

    image via NASA
    This article was originally published in forum thread: NASA Scientist Makes a Chemical Sensor out of an iPhone started by Paul Daniel Ash View original post
    Comments 17 Comments
    1. romeo_herman's Avatar
      romeo_herman -
      I can detect Chemical Ali's friend now.....
    1. frail1's Avatar
      frail1 -
      now you'll never be able to get away with saying it wasn't you who passed gas...
    1. ThaBadge's Avatar
      ThaBadge -
      I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the similarity to the Tricorder
    1. iLaw-One's Avatar
      iLaw-One -
      I wonder if this would ever be available on the app store or come to the JB community, due to probably failing apple's approval process...as all useful apps do!
    1. hancoma's Avatar
      hancoma -
      Interesting.
      If this technology was embedded into the phone itself, with some modifications to include sampling of firearm discharge, etc, as stated in the article, the applications are limitless for forensics, law enforcement, and implementation of a society under constant surveillance.

      Hmmm...the Orwellian similarities.....1984...
    1. Zeal's Avatar
      Zeal -
      Useless.
    1. sziklassy's Avatar
      sziklassy -
      Quote Originally Posted by hancoma View Post
      Interesting.
      If this technology was embedded into the phone itself, with some modifications to include sampling of firearm discharge, etc, as stated in the article, the applications are limitless for forensics, law enforcement, and implementation of a society under constant surveillance.
      Don't quite see where the constant surveillance comes in with a chemical detector on a cell phone but I will let the conspiracy theorists dream
    1. hancoma's Avatar
      hancoma -
      Alas, you have spoiled my plan!
      My intent is to spread confusion with an off the wall comment in an effort to avoid the typical mac vs pc that occurs on ANY string.

      You have thwarted my design with your wilyness!!!!
    1. mortopher's Avatar
      mortopher -
      Sounds like potheads in the future are going to hate cell phones
    1. plcrules's Avatar
      plcrules -
      thats cool but not all that helpful 2 an average person
      the only good thing i could c would make it sense poison gas and have it alert u to get away

      thats the only use i could possibly c
    1. hancoma's Avatar
      hancoma -
      Quote Originally Posted by plcrules View Post
      thats cool but not all that helpful 2 an average person
      the only good thing i could c would make it sense poison gas and have it alert u to get away

      thats the only use i could possibly c
      Wellll....for some poisonous gases, once you smell it it is to late.
      Others can kill you and have no smell.
      Example, H2s which you can smell at about 12 PPM (I may be off as I have not dealt with this in years), is not dangerous at these levels.
      Once it reaches about 20 PPM you cannot smell it, and it will knock you and, cause paralysis, and death for extended exposure.

      I do see some uses for it, if in Japan during the sarin attacks this technology was available, installed on phones, and the data was fed back to a central tracking station real time, perhaps there may have been some type of warning system...or complete pandemonium.

      I do think it is interesting technology, and could be put to some very interesting uses. I would love to have it for my kids if it detected alcohol or other substances and send me the data, along with a location of where my beasts are!!!
    1. rhekt's Avatar
      rhekt -
      this is interesting stuff....art before science? science before art? yes tricorder i do say kind sir.
    1. bbillh77's Avatar
      bbillh77 -
      The rocket scientist made the hardware (that was the easy part}it would prob be easier to go through congress and make a law then try to get it in the app store
    1. mikerlx's Avatar
      mikerlx -
      its cool how a scientist hacked the iphone for a greater better cleaner air tomorrow......
    1. Truckerbear's Avatar
      Truckerbear -
      Think about the people with no sense of smell! Add other things like smoke and CO and its a lifesaver.
    1. one1's Avatar
      one1 -
      So...... It's jailbroken?
    1. tudtran's Avatar
      tudtran -
      Cool! What can it detect? Alien?