Challenges in paper-based fluorogenic optical sensing with smartphones

Tiffany Heather Ulep, Jeong Yeol Yoon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Application of optically superior, tunable fluorescent nanotechnologies have long been demonstrated throughout many chemical and biological sensing applications. Combined with microfluidics technologies, i.e. on lab-on-a-chip platforms, such fluorescent nanotechnologies have often enabled extreme sensitivity, sometimes down to single molecule level. Within recent years there has been a peak interest in translating fluorescent nanotechnology onto paper-based platforms for chemical and biological sensing, as a simple, low-cost, disposable alternative to conventional silicone-based microfluidic substrates. On the other hand, smartphone integration as an optical detection system as well as user interface and data processing component has been widely attempted, serving as a gateway to on-board quantitative processing, enhanced mobility, and interconnectivity with informational networks. Smartphone sensing can be integrated to these paper-based fluorogenic assays towards demonstrating extreme sensitivity as well as ease-of-use and low-cost. However, with these emerging technologies there are always technical limitations that must be addressed; for example, paper’s autofluorescence that perturbs fluorogenic sensing; smartphone flash’s limitations in fluorescent excitation; smartphone camera’s limitations in detecting narrow-band fluorescent emission, etc. In this review, physical optical setups, digital enhancement algorithms, and various fluorescent measurement techniques are discussed and pinpointed as areas of opportunities to further improve paper-based fluorogenic optical sensing with smartphones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number14
JournalNano Convergence
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018


  • Fluorescent nanotechnology
  • Paper microfluidics
  • Point-of-care diagnostics
  • Smartphone integration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)


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