The connections between art and science are everywhere. To find them one needs a pair of curiosity-driven eyes, or ears. According to a recent article in the journal ACS Omega, a team of bioengineers at the University of California, Riverside found a way to turn a 3,000-year-old African musical instrument known as mbira into an audio frequency-based chemical sensor.
The ancient device is made of a wooden board attached with a handful metal tines, which play musical notes when strummed. The researchers replaced the tines with hollow steel tube. To test a chemical solution, one simply fills the tubing with a sample and records the sound produced from tube plucking with a smartphone. A frequency analysis software developed in their laboratory then can accurately identify and measure the concentration of the test compound.
In the study, the researchers successfully distinguished diethylene glycol and glycerol, two structurally related chemicals that are sometimes mistaken for each other. They also managed to detect samples of counterfeit and adulterated drugs, which have a significant impact on healthcare in many developing countries.
Source: ACS via Youtube