Here we demonstrate three principle modalities for a smartphone-based spectrometer: absorption, fluorescence, and photonic crystal (PC)-based label-free detection. When combined with some simple optical components, the rear-facing CMOS camera in a mobile device can provide spectrometric data that rivals that of laboratory instruments, but at a fraction of the cost. The use of a smartphone-based platform poses significant advantages based upon the rise of smartphone apps, which allow for user-interface and data-processing algorithms to be packaged and distributed within environments that are externally maintained with potential for integration with services such as cloud storage, GIStagging, and remote expert analysis. We demonstrate the absorption modality of our device by performing an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) on both a cancer biomarker and a peanut allergen, demonstrating clinically relevant limits of detection (LOD). Second, we demonstrate the success of a molecular beacon (MB)-based assay on the smartphone platform, achieving an LOD of 1.3 pM for a specific RNA sequence, less than that of a commercial benchtop instrument. Finally, we use a PC biosensor to perform label-free detection of a representative biological interaction: Protein A and human immunoglobulin G (IgG) in the nanomolar regime. Our work represents the first demonstration of smartphone-based spectroscopy for biological assays, and the first mobile-device-enabled detection instrument that serves to measure three distinct sensing modalities (label-free biosensing, absorption spectroscopy, and fluorescence spectroscopy). The smartphone platform has the potential to expand the use of spectrometric analysis to environments assay from the laboratory, which may include rural or remote locations, low-resource settings, and consumer markets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNext-Generation Spectroscopic Technologies VIII
EditorsDavid P. Bannon, Richard A. Crocombe, Mark A. Druy
ISBN (Electronic)9781628415988
StatePublished - 2015
EventNext-Generation Spectroscopic Technologies VIII - Baltimore, United States
Duration: Apr 20 2015Apr 22 2015

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X
ISSN (Electronic)1996-756X


OtherNext-Generation Spectroscopic Technologies VIII
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • Point-of-care testing
  • Portable spectrometer
  • Smartphone biosensing
  • Smartphone diagnostics
  • Smartphone spectrometer
  • mHealth spectrometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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