Super Smartphone Microscopes!

Australian scientists have discovered a way to turn smartphones into sophisticated microscopes for a few dollars! The breakthrough comes as scientists the world over look for cheap, portable alternative to the more traditional digital microscopes which can be bulky and cost upwards of $1000.

Prior to this discovery, the closest scientists had come was is a $16 stick-on lens offering 15X magnification, invented by a Seattle University graduate. The new Australian lens costs less than a cent to produce and can magnify images up to 160 times which is close enough to see skin cells! It’s held in place by a 3D printed frame, converting an everyday phone into a mobile laboratory.

“Our technique heralds a new paradigm in low cost, high-performance optical lenses for the masses,” the team reported overnight in the journal Biomedical Optics Express. The scientists say that their lens, lightweight frame and miniature LED lights can visualise individual cells and can be made for just two dollars. Mass production is three to six months away, they say, with a German company already showing interest.

Smartphone lenses
Smartphone lenses

The lens is made by placing a droplet of polydimethylsiloxane, a common gel used in soft contact lenses, on a microscope slide and baking it at 70 degrees. More gel is added, the slide is inverted and gravity pulls the substance into a parabolic shape. Co-researcher Tri Phan, a Garvan Institute biologist, said the process was so simple that schoolchildren could do it. “All you need is adult supervision and a dry oven.”

Once people take up this technology or even better the possibility of smartphones companies building it into their next-gen phones could revolutionize so many aspects of our future. Farmers could take detailed photos of crop infections for analysis, kids would become more aware of the microscopic world around them and the medical advancements alone would be phenomenal. Got a dodgy looking mole? No worries take a few snaps and send them to your GP for analysis, the future is going to be amazing.

Stay Curious – C.Costigan


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