Gizmos & Gadgets: New Origami Paper Microscope Takes 20 Minutes to Assemble

March 15, 2014 – Talk about bringing science to the masses, a Stanford University bioengineer, Dr. Manu Prakash, along with a number of his fellow colleagues, have created an inexpensive paper microscope that can be stomped on, dunked in water, and thrown from a third storey balcony and still work. You fold it just like origami.

The cost of Foldscope from various reports is somewhere between $0.45 to $0.97 U.S. to make. It’s the size of a typical bookmark and following the instructions can be assembled in less than 20 minutes. The finished product contains no moving parts other than the slide platform.

Foldcscope comes ready to pop out and assemble from a sheet of card stock. It uses poppy-seed sized spherical lenses which cost $0.17 each. The battery to provide light is a 3-volt button that costs $0.06. And the LED to light up the slide specimens comes in at $0.21.

Each lens is press-fit into the centre hole of the microscope slide-mounting platform. Focusing is done by sliding the paper platform back and forth until the image becomes sharp. Images can be magnified up to 2,000 times making it ideal for detecting many dangerous blood-borne diseases.It can be used to achieve brightfield, darkfield, projection imaging and fluorescent microscopy.

With the cost price so low the Foldscope is a natural fit for usage in areas of the Developing World where malaria, Chagas, sleeping sickness and schistosomiasis are prevalent. Being so cheap to produce it can be thrown away should it become contaminated by a slide carrying one of these disease specimens.

The accompanying video has Prakash describing the purpose of the Foldscope how simple it is to assemble.



Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...