When you think of microscopes, what comes to mind? If you’re like most people, you probably think of high-end hardware, standing upright in a lab, access limited to scientists in white coats or University students. Turning that tale on its head, Foldscope wants to bring microscopic science to the masses. It’s a microscope made mostly of water-proof paper (it actually comes in a single thick sheet), it folds up like origami so you can take it anywhere, and it costs less than $1. Users snap out the components, fold them origami style, thread them together, and pretty quickly, they’ve got their own little lab.
It only takes ten minutes on average to put together a Foldscope. It holds regular microscope slides, and can magnify objects by 2,000 times (with submicron resolution) using a small built-in lens. Foldscope weighs 8.8g (that’s less than the weight of two nickels), while the kit weighs 400g. The kit has dimensions of 230mm x 115mm x 35mm. For optics Foldscope features a borosilicate glass micro-lens with embedded aperture, 140x magnification, and a resolution of two microns (1/2 the diameter of a human red blood cell).
In addition to being used manually, Foldscope can also be used “with” smartphones; users simply stick their smartphone camera over the eyepiece and they’re able to record clear imagery as desired. Additionally, when a light source is placed behind Foldscope it can be turned into a projector.
More advanced users can even tweak Foldscope to become a dark-field microscope (visualizing objects against a black background) or a fluorescence microscope (visualizing objects that glow under certain types of light).
So far over 10,000 Foldscopes have been distributed to users across the globe. Those users are now submitting their findings to the Foldscope website which showcases investigations ranging from children looking at banana seeds to medical professionals detecting parasitic worms in fecal samples. It’s important to note the latter application as well, as the founders of Foldscope are aiming to have their dirt-cheap device help healthcare workers in developing nations easily diagnose medical conditions while in the field and on the move. The intent is truly for Foldscope to be a global game-changer.
So far the makers of Foldscope have raised over $229,000 via Kickstarter, significantly exceeding their $50,000 goal with more than 3 weeks remaining in the campaign. For phase two of the project, by the end of 2017, the company hopes to distribute more than one million Foldscopes.
The cheapest backer rewards have gone fast, but there still are pre-order packages available ranging from $20 – $9,500 (“Foldscope Educational Associate”). If you get an individual Foldscope kit, that includes the following components:
- Deluxe metal storage case
- Foldscope die-cut sheet
- 140X lens
- Instruction sheet
- Magnetic cellphone clip
- Set of prepared and blank microscope slides
- LED light source and magnifier
- “My Foldscope Journal” with pen
- 12-well plate & petri dish
- Stainless steel mesh strainers & nylon filter mesh sheets
- Reusable, self-sealing PVC microscope slides & coverslips
- Tweezers, pipettes, scissors, Eppendorf tubes, and more…
You know what they say: big things come in small packages. Origami has always been beautiful, but this is a whole new level.
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