Caltech Engineers Use Legos, Google Smartphone For Smart Petri Dish

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology reported last week that they have created a "smart petri dish" which uses Google smart phones and Lego blocks, to automatically monitor cell growth in petri dishes. In a paper presented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the Caltech grad students said they created a system--assembled out of a commercially available Google smart phone and Lego building blocks--which automatically tracks the growth of cultures in petri dishes.

Usually, petri dishes are placed in incubators, removed for examination, and manually studied under a microscope. Instead, the Caltech engineers created a system to automatically take pictures using the Google phone, and transfer those photos via a cable to a computer outside the incubator--which is expected to "significantly" streamline and improve cell culture. Caltech did not say if the team intends to commercialize the development. The effort was led by Guoan Zheng, a graduate student in electrical engineering at Caltech.