Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The One-Dollar Microscope

A microscope that costs less than a dollar?  The Foldscope is made primarily of paper, plus a sapphire ball lens, a LED light source, and a small button battery.  It can be easily folded (assembled) into a working 2000-x microscope within minutes.  Although not as versatile as a microscope costing hundreds of dollars, the Foldscope is good enough that one can see individual cells in a sample, and even identify some bacteria and tropical diseases such as malaria and schistosomiasis.

The Foldscope was designed by scientists at Stanford University.   It is currently being tested by the first 10,000 persons who signed up to receive one.   From their many experiences, the volunteers will also help develop a crowd-sourced microscopy manual.  The goal of the scientists who developed the Foldscope was to create a simple cost-effective tool that could be used to stimulate curiosity in science and biology.  It may also have applications in global health.

You can’t buy a Foldscope just yet.  But at only a dollar apiece it may not be long before they are standard issue in most schools, and also in health clinics in poor countries.

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