Foldscope: Make a microscope with 10 minutes, $1, and some paper

About 1 billion people in the world are living in developing countries with a high percentage of malaria cases, and many of them end up suffering from the mosquito-borne disease since it’s very difficult to diagnose how far along the patient is.

People living in high-risk areas often resort to taking the tablet without knowing  how bad their malaria is, and this can worsen the disease, says Manu Prakash, an assistant professor at Stanford University School of Medicine.

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To give medical professionals greater insight into patients’ condition, Manu has invented the Foldscope, a microscope that can be assembled in 10 minutes out of a flat sheet of paper, costs about $0.50 to make, and can be disposed of after use.

Images taken at a micrometer scale

There are several versions of the Foldscope, but they are all assembled similarly. With the standard version, you hold the paper up to your eye, aim it at a light source, and move the lens up and down with your hand to focus it. Other versions include a flourescent microscope and a projecting microscope, which doesn’t have a power source and uses a light source to project a magnified image onto a wall.

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Foldscopes can handle some wear and tear, as Manu demonstrated in the video by using the microscope after stomping on it, then immersing it in water. He hopes that its versatility, cost-effectiveness, and ease of use will encourage developing countries to use the Foldscope to address their malaria problem.

The Stanford University lab which Manu is working with is looking for 10,000 people to use the product and help write a field manual on the Foldscope.

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