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Revolutionary Smart Measuring Optical Device

Massey scientists have developed what is thought to be the first-ever ‘smart’ cell density sensing tool.


The Smart Measuring Optical Device (SMOD) in action

A snapshot of the data display available from the Smart Measuring Optical Device.

The SMODTM (Smart Measuring Optical Device) was launched by Lifeonics at the Queenstown Molecular Biology Conference in August 2015 and since then, Lifeonics has quickly signed a number of international distributors, and has received its first orders.

Automating the process

The device takes away the need for researchers to spend long hours of manual monitoring and sampling of cultures to check for cell multiplication. Instead, the SMOD automates this process, sending regular updates to lab computers or smart devices including the researcher’s mobile devices.

“We wanted to provide something that was simple, made the most of new technologies, and saved researchers time,” says Associate Professor John Harrison, Lifeonics’ Chairman and Massey Institute of Natural and Mathematical Sciences (INMS) scientist.


He says in typical Massey fashion, the project was a true multi-disciplinary effort. Staff from Massey’s INMS and the School of Advanced Engineering and Technology brought a mix of skills to the project, including mechatronics, physics, chemistry, biology and computer programming.

“The biologists provided the problem, between us we sketched possible solutions, and the mechatronics engineer built the prototype.” 

“This was recognised by all seven people involved having their names on the patent application!”  

Real-time monitoring

The SMOD can measure in-situ optical density and temperature, allowing real time monitoring of the progress of a culture’s growth, monitoring of anaerobic cultures and early culture failure diagnosis.

The company is aiming to develop a range of sensing devices across multiple applications with analytical challenges.

 “Lifeonics' ethos is to take the laboratory to the sample,” says Assoc. Prof. Harrison. “With increased internet connectivity, measuring devices can feed data continuously from any physical situation to anywhere in the world. The challenge is around designing and building robust devices that are fit for this purpose, capable of measuring useful parameters, reliably and energy efficiently. There is huge and exciting potential in this area. “ 


  • Associate Professor John Harrison

    Associate Professor John Harrison

    Associate Professor in Chemistry
    - School of Natural Sciences