The iTube works by quantifying changes in the intensity of passing through a solution containing a possible allergen. Certain solutes absorb certain light frequencies, and peanuts absorb red, 650 nm. iTube has two small test tubes, one control and one assay. The user takes a small amount of food in question and dissolves it in a special solvent allowing it to incubate for a little more than 10 minutes. iTube passes a light through the test tubes and the smartphone camera quantifies changes in the intensity of the red light illuminating from the test and control tubes. An app on the smartphone then uses this comparison to determine if peanuts are present, even in quantities as small as 1 ppm.
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Explore This IssueJune/July 2013
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The benefits of this platform for those with food allergies is obvious, but Dr. Ozcan envisions his invention becoming a valuable tool for members of the food industry that include manufacturers and restaurants, offering them fast, accurate, and cost-effective allergen testing. The public health arena and local governments can also use iTube to protect consumers and enforce regulations.
But Dr. Ozcan’s vision extends beyond testing isolated samples for individual allergens. He imagines the creation of public, spatio-temporal allergen maps to provide vital information for allergen sufferers and their families.
Dr. Ozcan explains, “Our iTube platform will provide accurate and sensitive measurements of allergens, and the results could one day be uploaded to secure servers for long-term use in public health settings.” Users will be able to enter a zip code into a Google maps interface to discover what allergens have been reported in which location within a given timeframe, or search for incidences by allergen type.