Turn your Smartphone into a Microscope for just 3 cents!

Turn your Smartphone into a Microscope for just 3 cents!

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You want a microscope but don’t want to spend the money for it?  Well, University of Houston researchers have now created an optical lens that can be placed on an “inexpensive” smartphone to magnify images by as much as 120 times.  Impressive huh?!  Well wait!  All this can be done at a cost of 3 cents a lens!  Here’s how.

Turn your Smartphone into a Microscope for just 3 cents! Click To Tweet

Wei-Chuan Shih, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at UH, said the lens can work as a microscope, and the cost and ease of using it — it attaches directly to a smartphone camera lens, without the use of any additional device — make it ideal for use with younger students in the classroom.

It also could have clinical applications, allowing small or isolated clinics to share images with specialists located elsewhere, he said.

In a paper published in the Journal of Biomedical Optics, Shih and three graduate students describe how they produced the lenses and examine the image quality. Yu-Lung Sung, a doctoral candidate, served as first author; others involved in the study include Jenn Jeang, who will start graduate school at Liberty University in Virginia this fall, and Chia-Hsiung Lee, a former graduate student at UH now working in the technology industry in Taiwan.

The lens is made of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), a polymer with the consistency of honey, dropped precisely on a preheated surface to cure. Lens curvature — and therefore, magnification — depends on how long and at what temperature the PDMS is heated, Sung said. The resulting lenses are flexible, similar to a soft contact lens, although they are thicker and slightly smaller. “Our lens can transform a smartphone camera into a microscope by simply attaching the lens without any supporting attachments or mechanism,” the researchers wrote. “The strong, yet non-permanent adhesion between PDMS and glass allows the lens to be easily detached after use. An imaging resolution of 1 (micrometer) with an optical magnification of 120X has been achieved.”

That’s a pretty neat experiment to do with your kids.  Here are the results of this experiment.

Top row shows human skin and hair follicle. a) through c) are imaged with an Olympus IX-70 microscope at a magnification of 40, 100 and 200. d) is imaged with a Nokia Lumia 520 smartphone with a PDMS lens. Bottom row shows magnified regions. Credit: University of Houston

Top row shows human skin and hair follicle. a) through c) are imaged with an Olympus IX-70 microscope at a magnification of 40, 100 and 200. d) is imaged with a Nokia Lumia 520 smartphone with a PDMS lens. Bottom row shows magnified regions.
Credit: University of Houston

 

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