No, Curtis James Jackson III didn’t decide to invest in science and sponsor a microscope. It’s an actual microscope that costs around $0.50 USD to produce ($1 for higher magnification), and can be assembled in under 10 minutes. The Foldscope, developed by the Prakash Lab at Stanford University, provides over 2,000X magnification with submicron resolution, weighs 8.8 grams, fits in a pocket, is battery-powered for up to 50 hours on a single button cell, and is rugged enough to withstand being dropped from three stories or being stomped on by a mad scientist’s boot.
Once assembled, the Foldscope is operated by inserting a standard microscope glass slide, turning on the LED, and viewing while panning and focusing with one’s thumbs. The microscope components are versatile and each can be designed to perform a single microscopy technique, such as brightfield, darkfield, fluoroscopy, or lens-array. Cheap manufacturing costs could allow for labs around the world, especially in developing countries, to have drawers full of Foldscopes, each for carrying out a unique diagnostic test.
“Just for malaria itself, there are a million deaths a year, and more than a billion people that need to be tested because they are at risk for different species of malarian infections,” Manu Prakash said in his TED talk posted last week. “The Foldscope is a completely functional microscope [with] all kinds of advanced microscopy, built purely by folding paper.”
The team has shown Foldscope-magnified images of Giardia lamblia, Leishmania donovani, Trypanosoma cruzi (Chagas parasite), Escherichia coli, Bacillus cereus, Schistosoma haematobium, and Dirofilaria immitis in their article published in arXiv. They are now collecting data for malaria and Chagas disease, and are rolling out thousands of Foldscopes for field testing. They also envision that the Foldscope will offer an accessible microscope to help inspire children around the world to explore amateur microscopy and gain a hands-on approach to the STEM disciplines.
Here’s a video about the project from Stanford Medicine:
Manu Prakash’s TED talk:
Paper in arXiv: Foldscope: Origami-based paper microscope…