NASA Develops Chemical-Sniffing Device for Your Cell Phone

Jing Li, a physical scientist at NASA-Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, and his colleagues have developed a prototype device that brings compact, low-cost, low-power, high-speed chemical sensing capabilities to cell phones.

The device Li developed is about the size of a postage stamp and is designed to be plugged in to an iPhone to collect, process, and transmit sensor data. The new device is able to detect and identify low concentrations of airborne ammonia, chlorine gas and methane. The device senses chemicals in the air using a "sample jet" and a multiple-channel silicon-based sensing chip, which consists of 16 nanosensors, and sends detection data to another phone or a computer via telephone communication network or Wi-Fi.