Simple Musical Instrument to Catch Fake Medicine


Simple Musical Instrument to Catch Fake Medicine

Counterfeit drugs is a major global health problem, particularly in poorer areas of the world. While regulatory schemes, expensive equipment, and constant vigilance keep the drug supply mostly pure in developed nations, in many places pharmacists and even patients have to manage for themselves to make sure that drugs are what they say they are.

Now researchers at University of California, Riverside have developed a simple to build and easy to use device that can differentiate drugs based on their density. It works similar to the mbira, also known as kalimba, an ancient instrument whose metal plates are plucked to make sound.


The new drug sensor uses a hollow bent tube attached to a wooden board. When the tube is empty, it makes one note when plucked. When filled with pure water, another note comes out. When that water is mixed with different chemical substances, different notes are produced and so each substance has its own characteristic sound when placed inside the tube and plucked. Therefore if you can tell which note is playing, you can tell whether the substance is what it claims to be.

Of course it’s hard for a human to differentiate similar notes (not everyone has perfect pitch) and to actually tell which one is being heard. To overcome this, the researchers created a simple app for a smartphone to listen to the sounds and display the notes it’s hearing.

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