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University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering

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National Magazine Features UH Engineer’s Smartphone Tool to Detect Lead in Drinking Water

By: 

Rashda Khan
UH professor Wei-Chuan Shih & his research team's new smartphone tool to detect lead in water made the news.
UH professor Wei-Chuan Shih & his research team's new smartphone tool to detect lead in water made the news.

Lead poisoning has become a national concern as aging water pipes pose a threat to public health. You just have to mention Flint, Mich. for Americans to acknowledge the dangerous realities of contaminated water.

UH researchers have created an inexpensive and innovative solution – a system combining nano-colorimetry with dark-field microscopy, integrated into the smartphone microscope platform to detect levels of lead below the safety threshold set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The project builds on earlier research conducted by Wei-Chuan Shih, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and members of his lab, who discovered an inexpensive elastomer lens that can convert a basic smartphone into a microscope.

“This is an issue that affects everyone,” said Shih. “Everyone drinks water and everyone can use this technology to ask questions about their environment. This is an opportunity to educate society not only about lead contamination, but also how we can use modern technology to address major societal failures.”

The November issue of CEP Magazine, published by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) is highlighting the new lead-detection technology and Shih. To read the article, titled “Engineers Use Smartphones to Detect Lead in Drinking Water,” visit CEP Magazine.

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