Pocket-sized gluten sensor aims to make life easier for celiac disease sufferers

The gluten-free sensation is a trendy diet phase for some people, but is a serious health matter for others. For anyone with gluten on the brain, it can be tough to tell when the threatening compound is present in trace amounts that are small, but still threatening. Say hello to Nima, a handheld gluten detection device created by 6SensorLabs to save individuals with celiac disease from dangerous meals and awkward dinner parties.

For those who take gluten allergies seriously, it’s risky to assume that food prepared by anyone else is truly safe to eat. Trace amounts of gluten can still pose a threat to people with celiac disease or severe gluten allergies, so Nima is designed to remove the guesswork by testing liquids, solids, or any other edible material for gluten.

After placing a small food sample into the pre-prepared capsule, screwing on the lid grinds the sample for a better testing surface. Nima then conducts an antibody-based test that mimics scientific lab testing. It works by exposing the ground food sample to a chemical mixture contained in each disposable capsule. As the mixture saturates a test strip within the Nima device, sensors detect whether or not any gluten is present.

A simple smiley face or a frown appears on the Nima display to indicate the test’s results. In under two minutes, the device can detect up to 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. In more common food quantities, that works out to the same as 20 milligrams of gluten per 1 kilogram of food. Nima’s single use testing capsules are also disposable, so the Nima device itself is always ready for a new sample without having to clean or refill any components. In just three minutes, you’ll know if your food is safe to eat.

Nima’s mobile app also stores your test results and keeps track of foods you find frequently, in addition to its community platform that lets you communicate with other gluten-concerned users. Nima is also developing a database of gluten-free results that could integrate with restaurant discovery apps like Yelp.

After making waves at last year’s CES, Nima is now available for purchase. For $270, you can get the Nima Starter Kit, which comes with one Nima sensor, three one-time-use test capsules, one micro-USB battery re-charging cable, and a carrying pouch.

Article originally published in January 2016. Updated on 01-26-2017 by Lulu Chang: Added news of Nima’s availability. 

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