Researchers at the University of Illinois have scraped together $200 (around R1 900) in parts to build a special cradle for an iPhone, turning it into a spectrometer.
Spectrometers measure the light in the electromagnetic spectrum, the signature of which is then used to identify a material. Typically a spectrometer would costs many hundreds of thousands of rands, but now you can simply slide in your iPhone and let a but of custom hardware and software identify the cat pee that got into your laptop’s keyboard. More usefully, though, a mobile spectrometer can be used to identify pathogens and allergens. That this one is just as accurate as regular lab equipment will just make you a little more bitter if you’ve just dished out money on new lab equipment.
For a better idea, check out the device in action in the video below.