Smartphone image-based sensing of microfluidic paper analytical devices (μPADs) offers low-cost and mobile evaluation of water quality. However, consistent quantification is a challenge due to variable environmental, paper, and lighting conditions, especially across large multi-target μPADs. Compensations must be made for variations between images to achieve reproducible results without a separate lighting enclosure. We thus developed a simple method using triple-reference point normalization and a fast-Fourier transform (FFT)-based pre-processing scheme to quantify consistent reflected light intensity signals under variable lighting and channel conditions. This technique was evaluated using various light sources, lighting angles, imaging backgrounds, and imaging heights. Further testing evaluated its handle of absorbance, quenching, and relative scattering intensity measurements from assays detecting four water contaminants - Cr(VI), total chlorine, caffeine, and E. coli K12 - at similar wavelengths using the green channel of RGB images. Between assays, this algorithm reduced error from μPAD surface inconsistencies and cross-image lighting gradients. Although the algorithm could not completely remove the anomalies arising from point shadows within channels or some non-uniform background reflections, it still afforded order-of-magnitude quantification and stable assay specificity under these conditions, offering one route toward improving smartphone quantification of μPAD assays for in-field water quality monitoring.
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