This hand-held molecular scanner will tell you what any object is made of

This hand-held molecular scanner will tell you what any object is made of

An Israeli startup called Consumer Physics has built a hand-held scanner that uses light to analyse the chemical composition of any substance you point it at.

The company's SCiO device doesn't need physical contact with an object. Instead, a beam of near-infrared light is bounced off the surface, and can be used to determine properties like moisture, fat and sugar content.

Data gathered by users is sent to a global information bank, allowing the community to widen the list of products that the device recognises. "The bigger our community gets, the more data SCiO will have about different materials and this goes right back to our community of users," reads the company's website.

'Something cool'

The device was Kickstarted earlier in the year - gathering an impressive $2.8 million from a target of just $200,000. Dror Shjaron, co-founder of Consumer Physics, said that the success of the campaign shows that there's widespread fascination with science.

"There is interest from small developers that want to develop something cool for themselves or for their kids, or even teenagers that want to develop this, up to multinationals and large companies," he said. "There are people that work in industry that on a daily basis look at stuff and say, 'Is it really the quality that I ordered?'"

However, others have said the firm might be promising more than it can deliver. Oliver Jones, a chemist, told CNET that Consumer Physics may be "slightly overstating the capabilities" of their product, and that it couldn't be used in a commercial setting.

Duncan Geere
Duncan Geere is TechRadar's science writer. Every day he finds the most interesting science news and explains why you should care. You can read more of his stories here, and you can find him on Twitter under the handle @duncangeere.