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Lego Bricks, Smartphones Combine For Scientific Gadgetry

With a bit of help from Lego and a smartphone, scientists can now watch cell samples develop live from their computers.

Thanks to a few Lego bricks, a smartphone, and cell phone sensor chip, scientists at Caltech have figured out a way to better study various kinds of cells--without petri dishes. The three items combined makes the ePetri, which allows scientists to get real time updates of what's happening in the dish.

Who knew Lego bricks were serious scientific equipment?

The Caltech researchers simply place a sample onto the sensor chip and place it in the Lego framework. The sensor needs an LED screen for a light source, so the team places an Android on top on the frame. The whole setup is hooked up to a laptop, which allows the team to watch the samples inside the incubator. The sensor takes photos of the cells' development, which are sent to the laptop so they can be stitched together to produce high-resolution images for reference.

Although this seems like a DIY project, it's legitimately useful: For instance, using the sensor and phone reduces the risk of contamination, since nobody needs to touch or move the incubator to see what the samples are up to. Also, the researchers can keep tabs on various samples can be checked at once via the laptop.

You can read the full paper by Caltech in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Check out the video to see how the ePetri works.

[California Institute of Technology via Gizmodo]

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