Observe the infinitely small with a $1 origami microscope

By Laurent Laboutiere
— Dec 15, 2016

Observe the infinitely small with a $1 origami microscope

The Foldscope, created by a professor from Stanford, is a foldable paper microscope costing only one dollar. On a trip to Thailand, Manu Prakash was surprised to see that the doctors in a country hospital never used the microscopes available to them because they were too fragile and expensive for field work. Thinking of how robust a pencil is and easy to stick into your pocket, Prakash had the idea of creating an inexpensive microscope that can be used in all type of climates and situations.

Fifty thousand copies of the beta version of the Foldscope were produced in 2014. These pilot kits were distributed free of charge in 135 countries to users of very different ages and in very different circumstances, such as pupils in Tanzania, farmers in India and an entomologist in the Peruvian Amazon.

The values of democratizing scientific devices at a low cost, knowledge transfer and building a true user community are at the heart of Project Foldscope. The project has been strongly reinforced by the creation of the Microcosmos web platform, where users supply feedback, tell about their experiences or give advice. This collaborative group approach has now enabled Manu Prakash to develop a second version of the Foldscope, and he aims to produce a million copies of this new model.

The Foldscope can be used with the naked eye and a smartphone. With appropriate light, it becomes a projector. These functions have been included along with improvements resulting directly from user feedback that include locking of the focal point to create a time-lapse, locking of the field of vision and the addition of phase contrast for use in very bright or very dark environments.


We like: The idea of making a professional-quality microscope available to everyone, everywhere, and basing it on the values of knowledge transfer and scientific democratization. The implementation of a collaborative platform and the co-creation approach that inspired the second version of the Foldscope.


#accessibility #communities #crowdsourcing #innovation #health #learning


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