Tel Aviv-based startup Consumer Physics pulled the curtain back today on its first product: a tiny hand-held molecular sensor called Scio. The device, which Consumer Physics has launched a Kickstarter project for, would allow users to scan practically anything –foods, drinks, pills, plants, and more– and get detailed information on the object’s chemical makeup in just a few seconds.
It might sound like science fiction, but it’s actually built around an age-old method of materials analysis known as near-infrared spectroscopy. Basically, this process involves shining a near-infrared light onto the surface of a given material, which causes the molecules to vibrate and bounce back light in their own unique way. This reflected light is then collected and passed through a spectrometer (think of it like a prism) that separates the light out into all the different wavelengths it contains. By analyzing the unique optical signature of the scanned material, it’s possible to determine what it’s made out of.