Paper Microscope Folds Up Like Origami

Foldscope could revolutionize healthcare by offering a simple option for field-testing of infectious diseases for less than $1.

Foldscope is a microscope contained within a single sheet of paper that allows for fast and affordable testing of diseases like Malaria, Tuberculosis, and African Sleeping Sickness in developing nations. More than one billion people globally are at risk for Malaria, a disease that still claims one million lives every year. In many countries diagnosis can still take weeks or months, mostly because the availability and scalability of many of these traditional diagnostic devices are out of reach.

Manu Prakash, an Assistant Professor at Stanford,and his team are looking to change that by solving the immediate problem of quickly identifying the illnesses. Traditional microscopes are not at all designed for field testing. Aside from being prohibitively expensive, they’re are heavy and difficult to maintain. However, the team over at PrakashLab has developed an alternative that is portable, affordable, and scaleable almost to the point of being disposable.

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The Foldscope is made out of a single sheet of paper. Users break off the individual components and fold them together into what becomes a completely self-contained and durable microscope. In order to provide a universally accessible product, there are no written instructions for assembly, the elements are folded according to a color code system. Once assembled the microscope will require no external power. It will be able fit in your pocket and provide as much as 2000x magnification at a total cost of approximately 50 cents.

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Aside from the valuable role a device like can play in identifying illness in the field. It can also have a significant impact on the future of education. Foldscope could be easily applied to training in medical schools, and the team also hopes that it can serve as a useful component in K-12 science education as well.

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Currently, there are several projects underway to try and make microscopy more accessible to the average person, whether it’s an iPhone attachment or a unit made out of LEGO, but Foldscope is one of the first designed around this level of minimalism.

Foldscope is currently looking in enlist 10,000 betatesters to develop experiments and applications around the project. Visit the “Ten Thousand Microscopes Project” page to learn more and sign up.

Sources: TED