NASA isn’t just good for bringing you awesome space pictures; they can now help you figure out, via your iPhone, if that really is gas you’re smelling. Their chemical-sniffing device is about the size of a postage stamp and plugs into the iPhone to collect and transmit data from its sensor. It uses a “sample jet” to detect chemicals like ammonia, chlorine gas, and methane, even in low concentration. The device’s multiple-channel silicon-based sensing chip consists of 64 nanosensors; after analyzing a sample it can send data via a telephone network or Wi-Fi.
The low-cost, high-speed device could be a huge boon for law enforcement officials who need to quickly assess a chemical spill or possible chemical attack. Knowing just what the chemical is would be a great start, but NASA’s press release doesn’t say if the device is able to measure concentration with any degree of precision. The device is, at this point, just a proof-of-concept. But it’s an amazing use of technology from NASA’s Cell-All program, and we can’t wait to see what other crazy iPhone apps they’ll come up with.