Jing Li, a physical scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center, has used the hardware connectivity made available in iPhone OS 3.0 to create a “compact, low-cost, low-power, high speed nanosensor-based chemical sensing” external attachment. The prototype device, which is said to be about the size of a postage stamp, connects to the iPhone through its 30-pin dock connector.

As first noted by Gizmodo, the device can detect chemicals such as ammonia, chlorine gas and methane. The accompanying application can automatically transfer data to other devices.

“The device senses chemicals in the air using a ’sample jet’ and a multiple-channel silicon-based sensing chip, which consists of 16 nanosensors, and sends detection data to another phone or a computer via telephone communication network or Wi-Fi,” NASA said.

At Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June, Apple highlighted a number of third-party applications that take advantage of iPhone OS 3.0 to connect with external hardware. The new software allows applications on the handset to communicate with external third-party hardware.

[Via appleinsider.com]

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