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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Origami-based Paper Microscope

IAnD Exclusive 

Design Impact Special

By Team IAnD
Photography: Courtesy Foldscope

Paper Microscope by Stanford Professor, Manu Prakash.
Paper Microscope - CAD design

Stanford Professor, Manu Prakash designs an ultra-low-cost paper microscope to aid disease diagnosis in developing regions…

Design and technology play a wide field in the development of medical equipment – a basic factor that has spearheaded the medical field to where it stands today; and working towards solutions for the developing nations has always been an integral part.

Paper Microscope by Stanford Professor, Manu Prakash.
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Paper Microscope by Stanford Professor, Manu Prakash.
Optics meet Origami: Roll-to-roll manufacturing of integrated systems

Assistant Professor Bioengineering, Affiliate, Stanford Woods Institute for the EnvironmentManu Prakash and his team have used the simple origami-toys principle to design a full-fledged scientifically working model of the laboratory microscope. Dubbed as the ‘Foldscope’, the paper model that can be assembled in minutes is a compact design and uses inexpensive poppy-seed-sized spherical lenses rather than the precision-ground curved glass lenses used in traditional microscopes.  In its simplest configuration, one 17-cent lens is press-fit into a small hole in the center of the slide-mounting platform, whereas some of his more sophisticated versions use multiple lenses and filters.

Paper Microscope by Stanford Professor, Manu Prakash.
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Paper Microscope by Stanford Professor, Manu Prakash.
Foldscope schematic

What Manu terms as ‘use-and-throw microscopy’ comes in three parts: a slip of paper, which acts as the slide on which the specimen is kept, a slide for the ball-shaped lens, and a piece that contains an LED light, to help illuminate the subject being examined. Once all the different components are assembled as per instructions, the paper microscope is readied as a fully working model. Using one’s thumb and forefinger, one can shift the slide to examine the specimen from various angles or to control light. By holding the micro-lens close enough to one’s eye that eyebrows touch the paper, samples can be magnified up to 2,000 times (principles of optical physics). With minor design modifications, Foldscope can be used for bright-field, multi-fluorescence or projection microscopy.   

Paper Microscope by Stanford Professor, Manu Prakash.
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Paper Microscope by Stanford Professor, Manu Prakash.
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The nature and cost effectiveness of producing the Foldscope makes it a very viable option, especially in areas, where technology is not readily available. Poorer regions of the world not only have a hard time gaining access to microscope technology, but also have the highest prevalence of viral and bacterial diseases, which microscopes can help fight against; say, dangerous blood-borne diseases like malaria, African sleeping sickness, schistosomiasis and Chagas; moreover, the Foldscope can be incinerated after use to safely dispose off  infectious biological samples. 

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