The device uses a safe optical beam to probe molecules that make-up the sample. This technique of is known as spectroscopy. The specific technique we are using is called Raman spectroscopy, named after the Indian scientist, C.V. Raman, who discovered the phenomenon responsible for it to work. He won a Nobel prize for the discovery. (If you want to know even more in-depth details about Raman spectroscopy, Wikipedia has a page on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raman_spectroscopy)
So, you are probably wondering how it works. The technology utilizes safe optical beams to detect the full chemical “fingerprint” of a sample, and uses advanced algorithms and data processing techniques to confirm certified drugs and alert users to anomalies in fakes. The underlying science behind the project is optical spectroscopy, which is the core-competency of the team’s science members. The key advances we have made are in the analytical and chemometric processing fields, allowing for lab-quality optical spectroscopy to be achieved with a relatively low-cost handheld.
Spectroscopy is a remarkable method for analyzing a substance. There are many variants, like Mass Spectroscopy and Infrared Spectroscopy. We use Raman Spectroscopy as we think it’s the best solution to this problem because it’s not “tricked” by water signal and a sample does not need to be “prepped” or destroyed in any way. Raman is non-invasive, and can see through glass, water, and even semi-transparent containers. The basic idea behind the science is simple: When light hits a molecule, that molecule will absorb the energy from some of the photons (packets of light). That molecule will then use the energy to do some work and shoot out another “exit photon” of a different color. This is where it gets beautiful! The exit photon is directly characteristic of the type of work done. Each molecule has unique work that it wants to do with the energy it’s given, so it in-turn has unique exit photons to shoot out, giving it a unique “light fingerprint”. The end result: These exit photons can then be captured, counted and matched to determine the kinds of molecules they came from.
After capturing the light that shoots back from the sample, we use advanced mathematical and data processing techniques to build a full “light fingerprint”. This takes place only if the sample is verified, like in an authentic pharmaceutical factory by a quality control specialist.
In the field, like in a clinic in the developing world, a non-specialist user could harmlessly test a medicine.
If a tested sample is or is not an exact atomic fingerprint match, the user will be alerted with a simple Pass/Fail color coded response.
This means that the more devices we can get into the hands of people, the more counterfeit medicine can be caught before they get into a patient’s hands. Authorities can also use this to test samples, giving them the power to perform actionable analyses on-the-spot, instead of sending off a sample to a lab, while hoping the criminal doesn’t run away.
We are ready to take this out of the lab, and into the most challenging environment we can think of, with the highest potential for humanitarian impact. How to Help