Wei Shen, a chemical engineer at Monash University in Australia, was watching Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in his Melbourne home when he had an epiphany. In the film, Harry writes questions in ink in Tom Riddle’s diary, and magically receives a written answer. Shen realized, watching the scene, that this sort of easy answer to a question didn’t have to stay a fantasy: we have the technology right now to create medical tests which give immediate, easy-to-understand written answers.
Inspired by the Harry Potter scene, Shen and his colleagues have developed a paper blood test the size of a Post-it note. The surface of the paper is water-repellant, but contains four spots with the antibodies for each blood type, and when a small amount of blood is smeared on the paper, letters will appear on the paper showing the blood type (A, B, AB, or O) and whether the sample is Rhesus positive or negative.
This new sensor will be going into production within the next 5 years, and already the makers have high hopes for its application in poor countries, war zones, and disaster areas. Existing blood tests are incredibly accurate, but require a scientific background in order to correctly interpret. This new test has the potential to allow people other than medical professionals to test for blood type, which could have profound implications for medical care in emergency situations.
And this isn’t the only potential application of this technology. It’s likely it will be applied to other diagnostic tests in the future, allowing for a quick, easy-to-read answer that takes away the potential for human error.
Shen’s blood type sensor isn’t the only modern technology inspired by or eerily reminiscent of the magic in Harry Potter. Discovery News has an entire slideshow comparing technological advances to magical devices in the popular book series.