Innovation That Matters

$1 'origami' microscope is made from a single sheet of paper

Sport & Fitness

Foldscope wants to make science equipment more accessible with a printable microscope that can simply be folded into shape.

Citizen science is becoming a more popular past-time thanks to the plummeting cost of complex technologies. We've previously seen ideas such as PublicLab's Infragram turn basic digital cameras into infrared plant analyzers, and now Foldscope wants to make microscopes more accessible with a printable version that can simply be folded into shape.

Developed by Stanford University bioengineer Manu Prakash, the Foldscope is designed to be both cheap and easy to produce. Rather than being made from a number of complex parts, the device can instead be printed from a single sheet of paper. The printing method places a small drop of special glue with microscopic optical qualities that acts as the lens. The sheet's assembly instructions are also printed onto its surface, showing users how to fold it into shape. Prakash has found that, even with inconsistencies in people's folding methods, the microscope is able to align precisely enough to work well.

The cost of production is under USD 1 per device when printing at a scale of 10,000, meaning that the Foldscope could be delivered to doctors, scientists and students in communities that can't afford specialist equipment. The microscope also enables any doctor to carry one around in their pocket. Are there other ways to make scientific technology more accessible?



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