Microscopy & Microtechniques

  • Introducing the Origami Microscope by Foldscope

Introducing the Origami Microscope by Foldscope

Mar 25 2015 Read 2449 Times

Recently, a PhD student from Brunel University London created his own cut-price microscope by adapting three cheap instruments he bought online. Impressed? Things went one step further when scientists designed a cheap microscope that fits onto your smartphone or tablet. And it’s happened again! Thanks to the innovation of a Stanford University PrakashLab research team the world has now been introduced to Foldscope. Using a single sheet of flat paper, next generation technology prints and folds the material into a fully functional optical microscope. A little like origami! The microscope can be mass produced which makes it amazingly affordable and economic.  

Science for the people!

At its core the PrakashLab claims to be on a mission of “democratizing science by developing scientific tools that can scale up to match problems in global health and science education.” According to the team each microscope costs less than US$1 to produce which is an incredible feat considering that most microscopes cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. This means that the Foldscope is well on its way to achieving its philosophy that "every kid in the world should carry around a microscope."

Despite its remarkable budget, the Foldscope offers users over 2,000X magnification accompanied by sub-micron resolution of 800nm. The entire contraption weighs in at under 8.8g and is so compact that it can be slipped into a lab coat pocket. Measurements are 70 × 20 × 2 mm3 to be precise!

What’s more, the Foldscope is incredibly robust given the fact that it is crafted from a single sheet of paper. From surviving a fall from a three storey building to bouncing back from being stepped on by a human foot, it’s one of the toughest microscopes in existence. Not to mention the fact that it requires no external power source which makes it a terrific option for eco-friendly labs.

From the classroom to the health lab

So what sort of applications is the Foldscope designed to be used for? With its minimalist, scalable design and cost effective manufacturing process the innovative contraption is ideal for use in K12 science education, field based citizen science and global health alike.

The simple yet highly functional design can be used as a disease specific instrument that makes research easy and efficient for health workers. Its ultra-compact build makes it ideal for students and professional scientists needing access to a microscope when carrying out field work. For resource poor locations the Foldscope is an intelligent solution that can be easily carried by plane, train, car, boat or any other mode of transport.

Where can I get one?

Can’t wait to get your hands on a Foldscope? Unfortunately they have yet to hit the commercial market however the Prakash Lab team is working hard to launch a start-up company to support its grand debut.

The bottom line? Watch this space!

Image Credit: Screenshot via Ted Talks 

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