The smartphone that many of us use every day is one of the most advanced photonics devices ever made with state-of-the-art imaging and communications built-in. The links below show how smartphones are used by scientists as measuring instruments in applications from air pollution and light pollution, to adaptation as a microscope for measuring bacteria. Find out how you can use your own smartphone to perform scientific measurements with simple apps and add-ons.
Compact Microscopes for Your Smartphone
“Two winners of the 2009 Vodafone Wireless Innovation Project were compact microscopes that interface with a cell-phone camera. There is also a nanosensor-based detector for airborne chemicals that plugs into an iPhone. Although envisioned for field use, these devices highlight the possibilities of the technology.”
DIY Foldable Smartphone Spectrometer
The foldable paper mini-spectrometer folds up in minutes to transform your smartphone into a compact, simple, yet powerful experimental tool - a visible/near-infrared spectrometer, also known as a spectroscope or spectrophotometer.
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SciSpy: Spy on Nature, Contribute to Science
For certain apps, like SciSpy, mobile devices allow users to take pictures of what they observe, stamped with the time, date, and even GPS coordinates. This is incredibly useful for researchers that need to compile large amounts of data for things like bird migration patterns, species concentration, and seasonal trends.
Smartphone Apps Illuminate Science of Space, Earth and Sea (September 2012)
“The school year is back in full swing and students are studying a variety of scientific topics, from biology, to astronomy to chemistry. Using smartphones and tablets, apps are helping illuminate a wide range of sciences for students, researchers and enthusiasts alike.”
NASA, Scripps Use Technology Used In Smartphones To Boost Early Warnings Of Natural Calamities Like Floods, Earthquakes (December 2013)
“A new technology, similar to the one used in smartphones, can help scientists get early and more accurate warnings about extreme weather systems, tsunamis and earthquakes, researchers said.”
Scientific Breakthrough Transforms Smartphones Into Cancer-Detecting Microscopes (May 2014)
“Smartphones have emerged as a tool not just for selfies and communicating on the go, but also for science. Australian Researchers recently invented a new kind of lens that transforms a smartphone camera into a microscope that's detailed enough to diagnose skin cancer.”
iSPEX: Measure Aerosols With Your Phone
iSPEX is an instrument that measures atmospheric aerosols with your smartphone. Although invisible to the naked eye, we inhale tens of billions of aerosols every time we inhale. Aerosol groups include sulfates, organic carbon, black carbon, nitrates, mineral dust, sea salt, or a combination of these elements. Despite their small size, they have a huge impact on our health and climate. The iSPEX smartphone attachment is revolutionary because it allows the general public to learn more about the presence of aerosols and their impact on the immediate environment.
10 Ways You Can Use Your Smartphone to Advance Science (July 2012)
“When almost everyone has an Internet connection, a camera, and a GPS unit right in their phone, almost anyone can gather, organize, and submit data to help move a study along. Here are 10 projects and apps that will turn you into a citizen scientist.”
10 Ways Scientists Are Using Your Smartphone To Save The World (October 2013)
“Smartphones allow us to be always connected to the greatest collection of information ever put together. The fact that everyone has their own mini supercomputer hasn’t escaped scientists, who have come up with a number of novel ways to use smartphones to change the world.”
8 Apps That Turn Citizens into Scientists (November 2013)
“App-equipped wireless devices give users worldwide the ability to act as remote sensors for all sorts of data as they go through their daily routines—whether it’s invasive garlic mustard weed in Washington State or red-bordered stinkbugs in Quintana Roo, Mexico.”