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Musical Instrument Developed to Detect Fake Medicines

Musical Instrument Developed to Detect Fake Medicines

Tuesday, 18 September, 2018 - 05:45
Scientists develop a new sensor to identify substances, including a poisonous chemical sometimes mistakenly added to medicines. (Reuters)
San Francisco - Asharq Al-Awsat
What if a single musical note could mean the difference between life and death?

Scientists at the University of California have developed a new sensor, based on a 3,000 year old African musical instrument, that can be used to identify substances, including a poisonous chemical sometimes mistakenly added to medicines.

The mbira-like sensor, which can be constructed from off-the-shelf or discarded materials, could offer pharmacists and consumers in the developing world inexpensive protection from counterfeit drugs.

The device, built by William Grover, an engineer at the University of California, Riverside, can accurately measures the density of any liquid. Comparing the density of a suspicious liquid medicine to the density of the known product can reveal whether or not the two medicines have the same ingredients.

The research was inspired by the observation that frequencies of sound created by a musical instrument are determined by the instrument's physical properties. For example, the pitch of a guitar string is a function of the length and tension of the string.

The German News Agency reported that Grover and his team modified a mbira, a musical instrument made of graduated metal prongs attached to a soundboard. The prongs play different musical notes when plucked with the finger. Grover replaced the metal prongs with a length of bent metal tubing, injected it with a liquid and compared the frequency of the musical notes made by the filled and empty tube to measure the liquid's density.

The Phys.org website reported that the researchers then tested six different popular cold and flu medicine. All of the samples made the same musical note when loaded into the sensor, which confirms that the medicine samples were identical and authentic.

The research team says that this sensor could help drug companies or compounding pharmacists in the developing world to verify different medicine compounds that might have been mislabeled, unintentionally or not, and save many lives.

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