March 26, 2014
Foldscope – An Inexpensive Microscope Made From Paper
Only a few years ago, people never imagined that we could one day carry around our phones in our pockets. Now, to not have our phone with us would feel disturbing. A few years ago, the thought of having the whole of the Internet at our very fingertips, 24 hours a day, seemed like an impossibility. Now, we have smartphones that are better web browsers than many of our older computers. As technology continues to grow, more things that once felt like impossibilities are becoming common place. This, of course, leads us to the question of what is next? What will be the next tech breakthrough that makes something smaller and cheaper? Would you believe me if I said “microscopes?”
Enter the Foldscope, created by Professor Manu Prakash and his students at Stanford University. A microscope made out of card-stock paper, a watch battery, LED, and various optical units that, when folded together like origami, are able to create a functional, inexpensive, and durable microscope with a resolution of 800 nanometers, which basically means that it is able to magnify an image up to 2,000 times. These Foldscopes are cheap to make, costing between 50 cents and one dollar per device, and are small enough to comfortably fit in your pocket. This is because the microscope is made mostly out of the card-stock paper, which also gives it its durability, and because all of the optical components are only about the size of a grain of sand. These Foldscopes are also able to project the image they magnify, thanks to the LED, so that larger groups of people are able to observe the image at once, making them very ideal for teaching.
According to Professor Prakash, there are 20 to 25 known diseases that are commonly diagnosed using a microscope. Diseases such as malaria, Chagas disease, and Leishmaniosis to name a few. Thanks to the inexpensive and portable nature of the Foldscope, health workers can easily take these devices out into the field, to remote communities who would otherwise not be able to receive a proper diagnosis. According to a statement Prakash “One of the goals of designing some of these instruments has always been getting them into the hands of health workers who do diagnostics out in the field, and especially in remote locations.”
Do you want to see the Foldscope for yourselves? You can see it below and listen to what its designer has to say about it.
Professor Prakash hopes that one day the Foldscope will be found alongside rulers, pencils, pens, notebooks, and more in every students’ backpack. As they are such an inexpensive tool and yet could provide so much for both medical diagnosis and education, the Foldscope is a simple little creation that is likely going to have many far-reaching benefits.
I never thought that one day I might carry around a small, portable microscope in my pocket, but now I am excited for one. Putting such a tool into so many hands is a way of opening up the gates of discovery to a whole new degree.
Image Credit: Stanford University