Manu Prakash, inventor of the low cost Foldscope- folding paper microscope believes this invention could revolutionize healthcare industry in the developing countries and at the same time help young kids to have hands-on science experiment.
A physicist and an inventor from Stanford University, Manu Prakash and his team have developed an amazing microscope which is made out of paper and is pretty easy to fold and use.
TED fellow, Manu Prakash says this is “use and throw microscopy” which costs only 50 cents and it is very much useful and durable.
While speaking to The Atlantic, bio-engineer Prakash says that the ease with which the device can be assembled will help kids to have fun and also enjoy the different science experiments.
He further added: “The biggest thing we’re trying to do is to make people curious. Our ambition is that every kid should be able to carry a microscope in their pocket.”
The entire Foldscope is printed on a thick paper and it can be assembled in origami-style in a matter of just few minutes to produce a sturdy imaging device which has the capability of magnifying an image to about 2,000 times using natural sunlight.
Prakash et al even demonstrated this magnification during the TED conference. In comparison, other portable microscopes are able to magnify only upto 250 times and that too they need electricity for illumination, in addition they are not that travel friendly.
Prakash et al had created this microscope in 2012; however last month, a science reporter and entomologist Aaron Pomerantz took this origami microscope to Peruvian Amazon rain forest and mentioned the usefulness of this amazing device.
Pomerantz is become a fan of this device due to its amazing durability and usefulness. He wrote in his site that “this device is amazing”. He also mentioned that the device helped him to investigate tiny insects, mites, fungi and plant cells providing a magnification of 40X to 480X. He has also shared some of the amazing pictures of the investigations that he made using Foldscope.
According to Pomerantz, Foldscope is one of the best gadgets “which can tackle the hot, humid stresses of real jungle field work”.
Pomerantz told the Daily Mail: “In some cases, you get back to the lab and wish you had done something different in the field like made more collections or made more observations, for example, if only you had seen it under a microscope in real-time. The Foldscope gives you that immediacy in the field to investigate your subjects and you can then take them back for more detailed work in a lab.”
This folding microscope is light in weight, pretty durable, cost very less in comparison to the traditional microscope which is very bulky, expensive and also get destroyed by fungi and needs to be handled with care. Prakash says that in some places people do not even know how to use a microscope and hence it just lies locked in some store room for years together.
Prakash et al wanted to make people use their new device and test it personally and hence the team distributed around 10,000 Foldoscopes to eager users.
The team also created a Foldscope site wherein these users can submit the result of their investigations using this creative device. Surprisingly, the findings posted on this site comprises of a wide range of investigations right from observing banana seeds till detecting parasitic worms in fecal samples.
In his official talk at the TED conference, Prakash mentions that we have been using the same bulky microscope since centuries, from the time it was discovered.
Most of the people are getting infected with malarial parasites which the health workers are not able to diagnose because either they do not access to good microscope or they do not how to use these expensive devices. With a low cost and accurate Foldscope health workers in every corner of Earth can diagnose blood borne illnesses much quickly and safely.
Last year, Prakash wrote in a Stanford blog post-“I wanted to make the best possible disease-detection instrument that we could almost distribute for free. What came out of this project is what we call use-and-throw microscopy.”
“What makes [the Foldscope]revolutionary is that it works, say at detecting disease-causing agents or investigating unknown species in the field, and costs less than $1. This allows it to scale-up and potentially reach millions of people including children, health care workers, and field biologists, who may not have immediate access to a microscope otherwise.”
Prakash and his team are “working hard to make the Foldscope commercially available via spinoff/startup” however right now it is not available for purchase and if anyone is interested in using a folding microscope they need to make their own Foldscope by following the methods given here.
As of now there is no word regarding the timeline till when the Foldscope will available for commercial use.
BY MAYA KAMATH ON SEPTEMBER 11, 2015