Imagine taking a walk in your favorite neighborhood when you suddenly spot a bug that looks interesting. If you want to observe it in microscopic detail, all you have to do is whip out your own deluxe foldscope individual kit and take a few quick pictures with your smartphone. And the same works with things less attractive than iridescent beatles, such as skin lesions in a remote clinic.
We first reported about the 50-cent paper-based microscope back in 2014 when Manu Prakash and team published a paper describing the capabilities and how to build the microscope yourself. Since then, the team have raised money through a successful Kickstarter campaign launched in November 2016 (the goal was $50,000, which was met within 24 hours and they ended up raising close to $400,000). So far, they have shipped at least 18 metric tons of foldscopes and have now established their factory and infrastructure in order to keep making more of the portable and affordable microscopes.
With potential uses in both the educational and cheap medical diagnostics industry, the foldscope has already begun to change the way tens of thousands of people observe the microscopic world, one lens at a time.
The original foldscope was hailed as being a $0.50 paper microscope, and true to its price. They now sell at $35 for 20 basic kits, which is mainly aimed at classrooms and resource-poor schools. These kits consist of pooled accessories and 20 separate foldscopes (140X lenses). For individual users looking for a premium experience, the Deluxe kit sells at $35 which comes with a full set of accessories. By buying the Deluxe kit, consumers support more foldscopes to be sent to communities that do not have the resources to engage with science. The Deluxe kit includes two 140X mounted lenses with magnetic couplers, an origami style instruction manual for assembling the body of the device, a handheld magnifier and several sample preparation items such as petridishes, filter sheets, tweezers, tape and mesh strainers. Two prepared slides (stained fern and skeletal muscle) were included in the kit, with three standard blank glass slides. Additional slides can be prepared using a pre-cut card and a clear sheet, both of which are supplied with the kit. Overall, the kit is comprehensive and has everything that a first-time user would need on the move and in the field.
The instruction sheet for the assembly of the foldscope is user-friendly and I was able to put together all the components within a half an hour. For users that are not able to follow the instructions, detailed tutorials of product assembly and sample mounting are available on the project’s website.
- Ease of assembly
- Simple instructions with not too many steps
- Comprehensive kit with all accessories included
- Easily the most cost-effective portable microscope on the market
- Ability to observe both through eyes and with a phone camera
- Good magnification for educational purposes
- Easily customizable for medical diagnostics
- Eco-friendly due to its paper-based components
- Feels a bit flimsy after assembly (cost-effectiveness and portability outweigh this con)
- Not sure how long it will last when using several glass slides over a long period of time
The much-anticipated foldscope lives up to its expectations of being a cheap, easy to use, portable microscopy tool. Although a seasoned microscope user who has regular access to fancy microscopes might not prefer these on a regular basis, it makes for a great educational tool for young children and adults who do not have much previous microscopy experience. The foldscope is also currently in trials for use as a diagnostic tool for malaria and African sleeping disease, which we anticipate will have a large impact in resource-poor communities. Overall, this is a must-have for anyone on a budget interested in observing the physical, chemical, and biological world in greater detail .
Link: Foldscope homepage…