Fitness Tracker Hacked Into Optical Density Meter

What do fitness trackers have to do with bacterial cultures in the lab? Absolutely nothing, unless and until someone turns a fitness band into a general-purpose optical densitometer for the lab.

This is one of those stories that shows that you never know from where inspiration is going to come. [Chinna Devarapu] learned that as a result of playing around with cheap fitness bands, specifically an ID107HR. A community has built up around hacking these bands; we featured a similar band that was turned into an EEG. With some help, [Chinna] was able to reflash the microcontroller and program it in the Arduino IDE, and began looking for a mission for the sensor-laden platform.

He settled on building a continuous optical densitometer for his biology colleagues. Bacterial cultures become increasingly turbid as the grow, and measuring the optical density (OD) of a culture is a common way to monitor its growth phase. This is usually done by sucking up a bit of the culture to measure, but [Chinna] and his team were able to use the hacked fitness band’s heartrate sensor to measure the OD on the fly. The tracker fits in a 3D-printed holder where an LED can shine through the growing culture; the sensor’s photodiode measures the amount of light getting through and the raw data is available via the tracker’s Bluetooth. The whole thing can be built for less than $20, and the plans have been completely open-sourced.

We really like the idea of turning these fitness bands into something completely different. With the capabilities these things pack into such a cheap and compact package, they should start turning up in more and more projects.

5 thoughts on “Fitness Tracker Hacked Into Optical Density Meter

  1. It’s worth noting that optical density is somewhat wavelength dependent with 600nm / yellow light being the common choice. Certain species give more consistent results under different wavelengths. Since heart rate monitors are generally optimised for detecting red and near IR light, I wonder how this compares to a more purpose built spectrophotometer.

    1. Seems like they did address this. From the linked article: “One important modification we did to the fitness is adding a circuit to drive an LED at 600nm. This is important because ODs are traditionally measured at 600nm, where most bacteria has low absorption of light.”

  2. I appreciate seeing a project that is relevant to both the DIY community and the scientific-research community! IMO each group could learn lots from the other; projects like this one demonstrate that. Great work!

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