The efficiency of color space channels to quantify color and color intensity change in liquids, pH strips, and lateral flow assays with smartphones

Joost Laurus Dinant Nelis*, Laszlo Bura, Yunfeng Zhao, Konstantin M. Burkin, Karen Rafferty, Christopher T. Elliott, Katrina Campbell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)
224 Downloads (Pure)


Bottom-up, end-user based feed, and food analysis through smartphone quantification of lateral flow assays (LFA) has the potential to cause a paradigm shift in testing capabilities. However, most developed devices do not test the presence of and implications of inter-phone variation. Much discussion remains regarding optimum color space for smartphone colorimetric analyses and, an in-depth comparison of color space performance is missing. Moreover, a light-shielding box is often used to avoid variations caused by background illumination while the use of such a bulky add-on may be avoidable through image background correction. Here, quantification performance of individual channels of RGB, HSV, and LAB color space and ΔRGB was determined for color and color intensity variation using pH strips, filter paper with dropped nanoparticles, and colored solutions. LAB and HSV color space channels never outperformed the best RGB channels in any test. Background correction avoided measurement variation if no direct sunlight was used and functioned more efficiently outside a light-shielding box (prediction errors < 5%/35% for color/color intensity change). The system was validated using various phones for quantification of major allergens (i.e., gluten in buffer, bovine milk in goat milk and goat cheese), and, pH in soil extracts with commercial pH strips and LFA. Inter-phone variation was significant for LFA quantification but low using pH strips (prediction errors < 10% for all six phones compared). Thus, assays based on color change hold the strongest promise for end-user adapted smartphone diagnostics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5104
Number of pages19
JournalSensors (Switzerland)
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2019


  • Allergens
  • Background correction
  • Color space
  • Food contaminant screening
  • Image correction
  • Lateral flow assay quantification
  • Point of site analyses
  • Smartphone colorimetrics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Instrumentation
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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