This New System Can Help Detect Water Quality Using Your Smartphone

In some parts of the world, tools and software used for measuring water quality are not within everyone’s reach but fret not as this new system can be installed directly on your smartphone to help you check the water quality.

A team of researchers and scientists from the Singapore University of Technology and Designed has developed a setup that can be used to analyze untreated water samples from lakes or rivers on the spot, without waiting a long time to get the results back. The system makes use of a smartphone camera to check up on tiny organisms present in water and tell you if it’s safe to drink or not.

The team led by Asst. Professor Javier Fernandez started observing single-celled organisms known as paramecia which are found in large quantities in different bodies of water throughout the world. The researchers measured the speed of the tiny organisms in untainted water and then compared that with the speed of the organisms when they were present in water containing different concentrations of pollutants such as heavy metals and antibiotics. The researchers concluded that the speed of paramecia decreased when they were in contaminated water and thus this observation was used to accurately determine how polluted the water was.

Taking a sample of water and measuring the speed of paramecia can therefore be used as a straightforward method to assess the drinkability of water without the need for specialized equipment or chemicals,” says Fernandez. “Usually, you would need a different test for each pollutant, but paramecia swimming is a global measurement.” For example, when heavy metals were present in concentrations considered to be half of what’s safe for humans to consume, the speed of the paracemia also decreased by half, thereby warning of the contamination of water.

The research is described in a paper that was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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