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Origami-based Paper Microscope Costs Less than $1 to Make: Foldscope

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High quality microscopes cost thousands of dollars and can be hard to operate and maintain. A group of researchers from Stanford University are close to changing that with a microscope that’s made mostly out of paper and costs less than a dollar to make.


The Foldscope was conceptualized by Jim Cybulski, James Clements and Asst. Prof. Manu Prakash. They were moved to develop the revolutionary microscope because they wanted to speed up the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases in developing countries. In his recent TED presentation, Asst. Prof. Prakash said that right now it can take months for patients in developing countries to get diagnosed and treated partly because microscopes are bulky, hard to maintain and expensive to acquire . So they set out to design a microscope that’s portable, easy to operate and can be mass produced at low costs. It looks like they succeeded.

In their paper, Jim, James and Asst. Prof. Prakash. said that the Foldscope can provide a magnification of up to 2,000X depending on the lens used. All of its components can be packed on a single sheet of card stock, which can also serve as an instruction manual.  Foldscope is also resistant to impact and water. It’s so small that you can carry multiple Foldscopes in your pocket. The only part of the microscope that needs electricity is an LED, which can last over 50 hours on a button cell battery. Best of all, it only costs between $0.58 to $0.97 to make. Below is Asst. Prof. Prakash’ TED presentation about the Foldscope:

How amazing is that? A copy of Jim, James and Asst. Prof. Prakash’s paper is available from the Cornell University Library archive. If you want to get your hands on one, head to the Foldscope team’s website and apply to become one of the their 10,000 beta testers.

[via Wired via Reddit]