Research Areas

NutriPhone – Nutritional deficiency analysis on your smartphone

We have developed the NutriPhone – a mobile diagnostics platform for monitoring individual vitamin and micronutrient levels like vitamins A, B12, D and iron.  From a finger stick of blood, the NutriPhone is able to analyze and quantify a range of nutritional biomarkers and provide important and actionable health data to the customer in 10 minutes.  Micronutrient insufficiencies affects 75% of US adults.  For example, vitamin D deficiency is well known to play a role in bone disorders and long term vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the leading causes of cognitive decline in the elderly.  Empowering people with a tool to monitor and track their individual status at home and obtain ‘instant’ low cost results can lead to early detection, rapid intervention, and consequently fewer major adverse events such as dementia, falls, and fractures along with improved quality of life.

Our research in this area and related works has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Nutrition International, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, and The Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.

Diagnostics for Global Health and Infectious Disease

A need exists for easy-to-use diagnostic tests that can rapidly screen complex samples for a broad swath of bacteria and viruses associated with tropical diseases or to perform molecular diagnostics in settings where traditional techniques such as immunoassay and immunohistochemistry are unavailable.  Our current systems are focused on febrile illness through our FeverPhone technology analysis and cancer diagnostics (in particular Kaposi’s Sarcoma through our KS-Detect system) which is currently deployed in Uganda through a National Cancer Institute project.

Our research in this area and related works has been supported by the National Institutes of Health.  Further details on this can also be found through our INSIGHT institute.

BioEnergy and Sustainability

The US Renewable Fuel Standard calls for a near tripling of biofuel production by 2022, including annual production of 4 billion gallons of “advanced biofuels” that achieve a life-cycle greenhouse gas reduction of 50%. In 2011, the National Research Council stated that these goals cannot be achieved without massive innovation in bioenergy production.

Microalgae can be between 100 and 800 times more efficient in terms of oil yield per hectare than current biofuel crops. We are developing transformative new designs for biofuel producing microalgae photobioreactors that enable radically better light delivery and product extraction. These new ultracompact “optofluidic” reactors can have significantly higher areal efficiencies, more efficient solar energy-to-photosynthetic product conversion, and dramatically lower operational energy costs and water usage. In recent papers we have demonstrated the fundamental concepts behind these reactors and are currently working towards upscaling into an integrated prototype system. Our research in this area is supported by the Department of Energy and the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.

Optofluidics and Nanomanipulation

Optical devices which incorporate liquids as a fundamental part of the structure can be traced as far back as the 18th century where rotating pools of mercury were put forth as a simple technique to create smooth mirrors for use in reflecting telescopes. Microfluidics has enabled the development of a present day equivalent of such devices centered on the marriage of fluidics and optics which we refer to as Optofluidics. We have a number of ongoing efforts in this area including developing fluidically reconfigurable photonic materials and using nearfeild optical devices to manipulate nanomaterials. In some of our recent works we have been able to demonstrate new types of photonic devices that can handle materials as small as quantum dots and carbon nanotubes as well as and biological materials like proteins and DNA. Our research in this area has been supported by a number of agencies including: the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Energy. We have also commercialized some of this technology through a venture backed start-up company, Optofluidics, Inc.