Foldscope – Origami Paper Microscope

A team of Stanford engineers has developed a microscope that can be built using only a dollar's worth of parts.

Manu Prakash was bioengineering faculty at Stanford University and Jim Cybulski worked at the Prakash laboratory as a PhD student. On field work trips the pair found that labs around the world had large unwieldy microscopes that were broken or difficult to use, if the lab even had a microscope. This cemented the idea that the world needs low cost and easily used science tools, and led to the development of Foldscope, the origami paper microscope.

The Foldscope project has been around for a few years in different forms but the team is now running a Kickstarter campaign to launch the scopes on a wide scale. The goal is to ship one million Foldscopes to the world in 2017. Fifty thousand scopes have been shipped up to this point. The team hopes to hit the million unit goal through a combination of users and educators purchasing for themselves, and citizens donating scopes to developing nations.

Foldscope itself is 180 x 80 x 5 millimeters when folded, and weighs 8 grams. The boroscilicate glass micro-lens and embedded aperture have a 140x magnification and a 2 micron resolution. The scope can be used by directly looking into the scope, using a cellphone camera, or projected onto a larger surface. The scopes are designed to be waterproof, tearproof and last for years. This campaign also allows citizen scientists to buy a large kit to allow users to collect, separate, prepare and mount samples in the field. The team calls this ‘a pencil box for science.’

This is a great project meant to inspire the love of STEM throughout the world and give engineers and scientists a valuable tool to use in the field. The campaign has already blown by its $50,000 goal and will be funded on December 21. Units will ship in August 2017.