New Water Testing Technology Uses Smartphones to Detect Pathogens in Water

Water testing technology from the University of Houston makes it possible for smartphone users to test drinking water for pathogens. This could help everyday citizens identify potentially deadly water sources, but it could also help keep entire communities healthy. And it could do all that using a lens that connects to a smartphone.

How DotLens Water Testing Technology Works

Researchers from the University of Houston lab developed a 3-D printed lens that attaches to a smartphone's camera lens to magnify and help identify two dangerous waterborne pathogens. The two pathogens, Cryptosporidium parvum and Giardia lamblia, can cause serious infections in the digestive tract and spread quickly through entire communities.

The lenses work with an adjustable light source to magnify the dangerous pathogens. Users simply need to collect a water sample using a test kit. Then, they use the fluorescent microscopy ability of their smartphone and the DotLens attachment to magnify the micro-sized beasts. While this technology only tests for the two specific pathogens at the moment, it opens the door for further development. Someday, smartphones may be able to test water for all kinds of contaminants.

Traditional Home Water Testing Kits

Consumers can already purchase home water testing kits to test tap water, well water, swimming pool water, and other sources. There is a variety of them on the market, and most kits are easy to use. However, they aren't perfect.

Many of the water testing kits available today require consumers to mail samples into a company lab. The lab will then run tests on the samples and email or mail the results back. They test for tons of bacteria and contaminants and can be quite thorough. However, it takes about a week to get results.

Our experts at Friendly Water can test the water for you.

Some of the best home water testing kits include indicators, test strips for bacteria identification, and other tests that use time-sensitive samples. These generally change color and give consumers instant feedback. They're easy to use, simple to understand, and often test for water characteristics that are either extremely dangerous or easy to rectify.

There are, of course, less comprehensive water testing kits available. Many of them are nothing more than a test strip or chemical that's dripped into a sample. The consumer simply compares the resulting color to a chart to determine chlorine content, water pH, metals, minerals, and other characteristics.

While consumers are able to test for pathogens with some home test kits, the new smartphone testing technology would give users quick and instant results. It also gives everyday people the ability to satisfy their curiosity and get children in on the fun, but this is more than just science in action. By giving entire communities access to this easy and inexpensive technology, these harmful waterborne pathogens could be discovered faster and prevent entire regions from suffering from these illnesses.