A team of chemists from Spain found a new way to use a regular old Blu-Ray player - they turned it into a cheap and functional medical device to help test for salmonella.

The scientists replaced the player's data board with one that is custom to read the reflectivity of the disk instead of the microscopic pits that hold the movie data. They prepared regular Blu-Ray discs by attaching btis of protein called probes and then covered it in a solution containing pathogens.

After rinsing the solution away, the pathogens remained stuck to the probes and the laser from the player was able to detect it.

While the method is not quite as accurate as using actual medical equipment, this MacGyver hack works. It means that poor communities that can't afford full fledged screening devices can spend very little to hack an entertainment device into a medical one.

As PBS's Matt Zastrow explains, Blu-Ray discs can hold more samples because they're extremely hydrophobic, meaning the water bunches up tightly on the surface. Its lasers are also capable of focusing on a much smaller area compared to a CD player's laser.

[Optics, NOVA]