Two DU students develop new formalin detection device


By Md. Mahdi-Al-Muhtasim Nibir

DHAKA, Oct 23, 2018 (BSS) – In a breakthrough in formalin detection mechanism, two thoughtful students of the Dhaka University (DU) have made their mark in this arena developing a portable formalin detection system.

Capable of accurately determining artificial formalin concentration in food items at all temperatures and humidity, the new beneficial device styled as “FoodAlytics” costs only 1000 Taka each.

Using the wonders of machine learning, this local device has been designed in such a fashion that would accurately determine whether the formalin present in food items is harmful to the human body or not.

Dream came true within a year for the two students of the same department of the country’s ancient university as they have deftly developed a cheaper formalin detection kit that would be effectively useful in safeguarding human health.

Swapnil Sayan Saha, a fourth-year student of Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (EEE) and Sadman Siraj, a third-year student evolved the new device working relentlessly for one year.

“The striking feature of the device is its ability to differentiate between artificial (harmful) and natural formalin (harmless) with accuracy using machine learning algorithms”, says Swapnil Sayan Saha, team leader of the project.

According to a report of Bangladesh Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in 2014, The Formaldehyde Metre Z-300, a kit used in the country for detecting formalin in food, has been found inappropriate for the test.

“The Z300 was not only found faulty, it was also very costly. But ours is the world’s first such device at a competitive price. Where Z300 costs over 1100 USD, our device will be available at only 1000 BDT,” Swapnil told BSS.

The project was funded by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and supervised by the authority of FAB Lab DU, a modern laboratory.

Contents of the device: The device measures 10 X 10 X 3.5 cm. The device contains formaldehyde sensor, microcontroller, bluetooth module, rechargeable battery and charging circuit. The android app associated with the device will be downloaded for free from Google Play Store.

Working mechanism: The voltage output of the Grove Formaldehyde sensor varies exponentially with formalin concentration. This voltage is sent to the android app via the bluetooth module by the AtTiny-85 microcontroller. The app applies machine learning algorithms on the data to determine the correct concentration and safety rating. Furthermore, the app is able to report to appropriate authorities as well. The device can provide accurate artificial formalin concentration within food items from a distance of 2-3 cm.

Recently, the duos showcased their project in the “Science for Mankind -Undergraduate Research Award 2018” in September and earned the Champion’s prize.

Honorary Professor of Department of Biomedical Physics and Technology Dr. Khondkar Siddique-e-Rabbani was the chief coordinator of the event and one of the judges of the competition.

Talking to BSS correspondent, he said, “The innovation was very potential. We examined that the two students’ application of scientific method and data analysis and selected their project for first prize jointly with another one. It may be used for the betterment of mankind.”

Swapnil and Siraj are now working on shaping the device fixing its size and preparing cover to make it worthy of marketing.

Commenting on the new device Swapnil said, “Earlier, our system has been awarded by IEEE Bangladesh Section Humanitarian Activities Committee, DUET and AUST. Furthermore, our project was selected as top 10 projects in the world out of 419 projects in IEEE AIYEHUM 2017. The system is an exemplar of how machine learning can be used to provide low-cost humanitarian solutions to common issues. We hope to market this product soon”.

The duos get the motivation observing the rampant use of dangerous levels of formalin in food items that incited anxiety and concern amongst the Bangladeshi citizens.

“Sporadic monitoring amalgamated with the paucity of well-grounded and inexpensive testing devices has created a need for the citizens to address the issue by themselves. We conducted a survey and decided to make a device for the market so that the citizens themselves can use to check for adulterated foods,” said Sadman Siraj.