foldable microscope

Disposable Paper Microscope Costs Just 50 Cents

By Anupum Pant

Background

While doing my daily rounds on the internet today, I came across this awesome piece of modern engineering – An extremely durable and disposable microscope made out of paper and very tiny ball lenses. I saw it first on a Ted talk that I’ve attached below. Ingenious I say!

What’s new?

Microscopes are no longer those sensitive, bulky and costly instruments which were used to observe tiny life forms. These engineers have changed the age-old definition of the microscope. The fold-able paper microscope or foldscope is an origami microscope that weighs just 9 grams and is designed by a Manu Prakash, a Bioengineer professor and his team from Stanford. Instead of costing thousands of dollars, this ingenious origami microscope costs less than a dollar and is set to transform the way people use microscopes.

Besides being light, cheap and foldable, the microscope is water proof, durable to the extent that it can be dropped from the top of a building without getting damaged, does not require any external power, provides a 2000x magnification, can be assembled by a first grader in ten minutes, is easy to carry and is absolutely flat! What more can we ask for!

It can even project the image of bacteria on your wall. How cool is that! I bet your lab microscopes can’t do that.

It is set to transform the lives of those billions of people living in the developing countries. The piece of engineered paper will change the speed and accessibility of medical diagnosis in the poor nations.

Material and actual cost

Well, as the heading tells you it is a 50 cent microscope, not really. It costs only a little more than that. Still, it costs lesser than a dollar – about $0.97. Here is the material cost break-up:

  • Tiny Spherical lens: $0.56
  • 3V button battery: $0.06
  • LED light: $0.21
  • and a couple of other things like tape, paper and switch: $0.14
  • Total: $0.97

Beta testing: The team is currently looking for beta-testers for Foldscope. They’ll choose 10,000 people who would test it in a variety of settings and would help them generate an open source biology/microscopy field manual. See “Ten Thousand Microscopes signup” for details.

It reminds me of

The incredible cheap microscope discussed above is new and very precise. Until recently we didn’t have that. DIYs on the internet taught us to construct (not really) not-so-accurate microscope setups at home using a laser pointer.

All you were supposed to do is point the laser pointer through a suspended drop of bacteria infested water (or other clear liquids).This is how I toyed around (I still do) with a laser pointer to see hazy pictures of possible micro-organisms:

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2 thoughts on “Disposable Paper Microscope Costs Just 50 Cents”

  1. I had read an article about this microscope, in ‘The Hindu’, a few days ago, in the science and technology section, this has proved to be a quick recap of what I read.

    Thank you Anupam!

    1. You are welcome sourab! At least the talk’s video must have been a new thing (given you read it in the newspaper). Thanks for dropping by, reading and appreciating. Do subscribe to the newsletter from the sidebar for updates like these.
      Keep reading.

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