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Science Technology

Paper Microscope Magnifies Objects 2100 Times and Costs Less Than $1 89

ananyo writes: "If ever a technology were ripe for disruption, it is the microscope. Microscopes are expensive and need to be serviced and maintained. Unfortunately, one important use of them is in poor-world laboratories and clinics, for identifying pathogens, and such places often have small budgets and lack suitably trained technicians. Now Manu Prakash, a bioengineer at Stanford University, has designed a microscope made almost entirely of paper, which is so cheap that the question of servicing it goes out of the window. Individual Foldscopes are printed on A4 sheets of paper (ideally polymer-coated for durability). A pattern of perforations on the sheet marks out the 'scope's components, which are colour-coded in a way intended to assist the user in the task of assembly. The Foldscope's non-paper components, a poppy-seed-sized spherical lens made of borosilicate or corundum, a light-emitting diode (LED), a watch battery, a switch and some copper tape to complete the electrical circuit, are pressed into or bonded onto the paper. (The lenses are actually bits of abrasive grit intended to roll around in tumblers that smooth-off metal parts.) A high-resolution version of this costs less than a dollar, and offers a magnification of up to 2,100 times and a resolving power of less than a micron. A lower-spec version (up to 400x magnification) costs less than 60 cents."
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Paper Microscope Magnifies Objects 2100 Times and Costs Less Than $1

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  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @02:55PM (#46759727) Homepage

    What is even the magnification on that thing? 0x?

    Woah. Wouldn't that mean you could see... everything? Only really small...

  • by nietsch ( 112711 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @03:09PM (#46759883) Homepage Journal

    This is what some uni group thought up to score some charity points with. "look we made an scientific instrument that almost everyone can recognise but almost no-one knows how to use, and made a very cheap & crappy version of it. And since it is cheap, it is good for the poor".
    No thanks. Cheap microscopes have been around for ages, probably because some parents think it will help their kid become a smart scientist later in life. None of these are used in the developing world for medical diagnosis, because there is no need for it. Sending millions of these overseas will help almost no-one.
    Having access to a microscope does not make you a doctor nor will that allow you to make a reliable diagnosis. You need training for that, and that training is way more expensive than the microscope or other tools you will use. And training/people to train is something that is lacking, not microscopes.
    Presenting a technical solution to this social problem will give them praise 'for the good work they do for the poor' but in reality they could have danced raindances in the poor's name to the same effect.

  • by Puff_Of_Hot_Air ( 995689 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @03:24PM (#46760023)
    The whole point of this, the whole point, is to make specialized idiot-proof diagnostic tools. Did you watch the Ted talk? It's short and informative. If you see the vid, you'll see that many of these places have a fancy microscope already that no one can use. With this thing they can create a specialized single use malaria detector for example. Very little training is required to insert slide, look at image, malaria? Yes/No. That's the point of this, that's what they are trying to achieve. It's a good idea, and it could transform diagnosis in the third world.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @03:37PM (#46760161)

    >The Economist is a Conservative publication??? You have an interesting perspective on the world.

    Umm, yeah. Is this news to you? Certainly outside the U.S. it is considerate somewhat conservative.

    For example, over the last 60 years it has almost always endorsed the Conservative party in the general election (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Economist_editorial_stance#Endorsements)

  • by dalias ( 1978986 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @04:18PM (#46760559)
    Toy microscopes don't work at all. Their focus knobs are loose so that you constantly lose focus while trying to see the sample, and they only have one focus knob which makes it essentially impossible to focus to begin with (real microscopes have coarse and fine knobs). And the magnification rating is always fake. If they advertise 400x, expect resolving power so poor that they're essentially 20x or less. I once got one of these pieces of junk and ended up going back to eBay for a $80 vintage Bausch and Lomb scope which I'm very happy with, but sadly I think that was a rare find and I just got lucky.
  • Re:dupe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @05:25PM (#46761155)
    I guess not enough people are voting in firehose. Whining about the outcome is fun and all, but you could do something about it. This is also true of the republican and democratic parties, through the primaries, but I digress.

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes