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Is the water OK? His smartphone cover can test it

Prototype by University of Copenhagen PhD fellow is a smartphone cover that can test and treat food contamination

The idea is that you scan the food using the phone camera and a UV light, revealing potentially harmful microorganisms. A UV lamp on the phone cover can then treat the water – effectively transforming it into a device to treat food and water contamination.

According to the inventor Bhaskar Mitra, a PhD fellow at the Department of Food Science at the University of Copenhagen, the phone will make life easier and safer for anyone in the developing world. His idea could have a big potential in countries where food safety is an issue, namely in India, where he is originally from, and other Southeast Asian countries.

“The tap water in Europe is safe to consume but in a South Asian context it is not. The smart mobile cover that I made is specifically relevant to nations like India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam etc. Streetside stalls, eateries and even tap water can be unsafe because of unhygienic conditions,” he says. “It’s an everyday problem for millions of people.”

Old tricks, new solution

After scanning, the food is treated with a sanitizing UV lamp on the phone cover, that kills the microorganisms within minutes. A final scan will show if the food is now safe to be consumed.

“It’s really great for liquids, because it works best at detecting what’s on the surface, but could be used on all sorts of food,” says Bhaskar.

The science was already there: UV light has long been used to kill micro-organisms. But having a small device that detects and treats the contamination is, according to Bhaskar, a breakthrough.

Empowers people

The device is built as a smartphone cover and is powered by a solar panel so that – as a nice side effect – also works as a charger.

Picture of the smart cover which is a preliminary prototype model. Courtesy of Bhaskar Mitra

Bhaskar came up with the idea soon after starting his PhD at the Department of Food Science at the University of Copenhagen.

“I work with food every day, so I wanted to do something with food and digital technology. And I wanted to do it in a way that would empower people,” he says.

When price can come down – everyone

At the moment, he only has a handmade prototype and is working with colleagues at the Faculty of Science to develop the software. The telecommunication company Telenor has expressed interest in further developing the project.

Bhaskar expects that the first customers would be travellers to South East Asia, but he hopes to be able to drive the price down enough to make it more widely available to people in developing countries.

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