Identification of counterfeit and substandard drugs, which pose severe risks to patient safety is increasingly important, as inauthentic drugs become more commonplace in developing parts of the world. Though thin layer chromatography (TLC) performed with laboratory-based instruments enables accurate analysis of suspect medicines, there is tremendous interest in development of an inexpensive mobile platform that would broaden the applicability of TLC to remote pharmacies and clinics that presently do not have access to laboratory analysis. In this work, we demonstrate identification and characterization of pharmaceutical products via TLC using a custom cradle that interfaces with a smartphone. A UV lamp integrated within the cradle illuminates a TLC plate loaded with calibration standards and an aliquot of a drug of unknown concentration. Phosphorescence from the plate surface excited by UV light reveals principal spots. Two independent image processing approaches were developed to enable image processing to be performed locally with the smartphone processor, or remotely by a server running MatLab routines on uploaded images. Both approaches report the intensity and travel distance of spots within a TLC plate. The system is able to discern 5% medicine concentration differences and to deliver analytical results that are identical to those obtained by a laboratory TLC densitometer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationIEEE Sensors, SENSORS 2016 - Proceedings
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
ISBN (Electronic)9781479982875
StatePublished - Jan 5 2016
Event15th IEEE Sensors Conference, SENSORS 2016 - Orlando, United States
Duration: Oct 30 2016Nov 2 2016

Publication series

NameProceedings of IEEE Sensors
ISSN (Print)1930-0395
ISSN (Electronic)2168-9229


Other15th IEEE Sensors Conference, SENSORS 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • falsified medicine detection
  • pharmaceutical compound analysis
  • smartphone sensing
  • thin layer chromatography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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