Osram Powers SCiO, The World's First Pocket-Sized Molecular Sensor
Imagine shopping for groceries and instantly finding the juiciest apple—simply by scanning it with your phone. Or tracking your body fat before a big tennis match against your local rival. Or finding out how much fat is in the cheese you bought at the market last night?
Well, imagine no longer, because all these things are now possible thanks to SCiO, the world’s first pocket-sized, near-infrared (NIR) micro-spectrometer that is smartphone-operated and cloud-connected. SCiO leverages infrared spectroscopy to identify certain compounds like fat, sugar, water or proteins in food. This leads to information about calorie content, freshness and quality of food that helps consumers better monitor their health and reach their fitness goals. Basically, SCiO absorbs light reflected from an object, breaks it down into a spectrum, and analyzes it to determine the object’s chemical makeup. SCiO, which is made by Consumer Physics, can scan a wide range of materials—food, medicine, even the human body—and analyze them in real time, instantly providing consumers and businesses with relevant and actionable insights about the physical world.
Making SCiO possible is Osram’s Oslon Black Flat SFH 4735 embeddable emitter, an ultra-small IRED that can be used in a variety of consumer and enterprise applications. The SFH 4735 has created a whole new field of compact, robust and low-cost sensing technology that did not exist before, making it possible to integrate spectrometers directly into mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Or, in the case of SCiO, a tiny device that fits in the palm of your hand. “Osram is a great partner to work with,” said Damian Goldring, cofounder and CTO of Consumer Physics. “When we first engaged Osram with our NIR project, a product like SFH 4735 did not exist. SFH 4735 was developed especially for the new need that was presented by SCiO. It required an open and innovative company like Osram to take the challenge and develop this brand-new technology.”The basis of the Osram’s SFH 4735 emitter is a blue 1 mm² chip in UX:3 technology. Its light is converted into infrared radiation with the aid of a phosphor converter developed specifically for this application. A residual blue component in the light helps users target the area they want to investigate.
Infrared spectroscopy uses the absorption behavior to determine molecular compounds. Every molecule absorbs light at several, specific wavelengths. This absorption spectrum is unique and acts like a fingerprint for a particular molecule. By analyzing the absorption spectrum of an unknown material and matching this measurement with a database of known molecules, it is possible to determine the presence and quantity of certain ingredients, such as the percentage of cocoa in your favorite chocolate bar.
With SCiO, Consumer Physics is the first to bring spectrometry to both consumers and enterprises. A leading food and agriculture company has selected SCiO for precision agriculture in dairy farms. Using technology based on SCiO, dairy farmers can analyze the nutritional contents and dry matter in a variety of feed types. This is a big deal because what cows eat, and how much of it, is directly related to the farm’s milk production. Dairy cows require a precise intake of dry matter and nutrients. Not enough dry matter and they produce less milk. Too much, and it messes with the cow’s digestion, resulting in lower production and wasted feed.
Until now, there was really no good, inexpensive way to analyze feed types and ensure that dairy cows are eating precisely what they should be. But with SCiO technology, dairy farms can cut costs and increase productivity by accurately measuring and analyzing dry matter. Farmers can carry the technology in their pocket and get lab grade results in less than a minute. Before SCiO came along, the spectral analysis of materials was pretty much limited to academic research. Now, however, everyday application of spectral analysis is transforming the way we think about food, fitness and medication.
“We really value our partnership with Osram,” said Goldring. “Osram have always been responsive and highly collaborative. But, more than that, they always produce high quality products.”