Origami-Inspired Paper Microscope May Help Save Thousands Of Lives

By Allegra Staples on March 19, 2014

CCSS NAS-6 Grades: 5-8 Word Search

At first sight, the Foldscope looks like a hastily assembled children's toy. However look closer and even into it, and you will realize that it is a powerful working microscope - one that can be used to detect dangerous blood-borne diseases like malaria and sleeping sickness, allowing for early treatment and potentially, saving thousands of lives.

The brainchild of Manu Prakash, an Assistant Professor of Bioengineering at California's Stanford University, the origami-inspired microscope can be assembled by almost anyone, within a matter of minutes - All they need is the sheet of Foldscope, a simple micro-lens and some glue or tape.

While it may appear rudimentary, the lightweight device that weighs a mere 8.8gms or less than two nickels, and folds flatter than a pack of cards is anything but - It not only provides over 2000x magnification, but can also be completely customized. That means that Foldscopes can easily be custom 'printed' to detect specific diseases, eliminating diagnostic guesswork. So far, Mr. Prakash has devised 30 customized versions. This together with the fact that they are easier to lug around than traditional microscopes and do not need any power to work, make Foldscopes perfect for field testing in rural areas that do not have ready access to laboratories.

The microscope, which is printed on cardstock paper is also surprisingly durable - Something its inventor has tested extensively by stomping on it, throwing it into the washing machine and even, tossing it off a three-story building. Just like the Energizer Bunny, it keeps going.

Best of all, the Foldscope costs a mere 50 cents to make, which is why Mr. Prakash strongly believes that it can be widely deployed to diagnose blood-borne diseases in developing countries where medical resources are few and far-between. Also, since it is so cheap and easy to assemble, Foldscopes exposed to infectious diseases can be incinerated and replaced with new ones.

In 2012, Mr. Prakash received a $100,000 USD grant from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to field test Foldscopes in India, Thailand and Uganda. Results and feedback from these trials will allow the professor to tweak this unusual microscope and make it even more precise.

Mr. Prakash hopes that his invention won't just be used to save lives around the world, but also, serve as an educational tool to inspire both adults and kids to explore and learn about the microscopic world. In order to jumpstart that initiative, he recently announced a plan to give away 10,000 Foldscope kits to people from all walks to life to enable them to test the microscope in different settings. To snag your own free origami microscope go to - foldscope.com

Resources: cbc.ca, mashable.com,scopeblog.stanford.edu

Article Comprehension:
  1. What is a Foldscope?
  2. What makes it unique?
  3. What impressed you most about this unique microscope?
Critical Thinking Challenge:

What would you use a Foldscope for?

Share by EmailShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TwitterShare on tumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on PinterestShare on RedditShare on Edmodo
276 Comments
to use your custom avatar.
  • fMonday, October 27, 2014 at 11:24 am
    cool
    • tim0706
      tim0706Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 3:57 pm
      cool
      • BiolytmfkalewmdMonday, September 8, 2014 at 5:22 pm
        NICE
        • bibliophile
          bibliophileSaturday, August 9, 2014 at 11:32 am
          WOW!!!
          • cherylTuesday, June 24, 2014 at 4:20 am
            this is SO awesome. its cheaper then the usual microscope. and its origami, made out of paper somemore.
            • Big DThursday, May 22, 2014 at 10:05 am
              that's awsome
              • max-a-million=pWednesday, May 21, 2014 at 3:25 pm
                i think that this is awesome !!!!!!!!!
                • seliza
                  selizaSaturday, May 10, 2014 at 11:07 am
                  If this FOLDSCOPE is precise it could actually help people around the world. It is wayyyy less expensive than a usual microscope. Even people with less resources could have tests done to avoid illness.
                  • lillyWednesday, May 7, 2014 at 12:14 pm
                    good story
                    • whatevWednesday, May 7, 2014 at 12:13 pm
                      whatev

                      Vocabulary

                      diagnosticdurableincineratedinitiativemagnificationmalariapreciserudimentarysleeping sicknesstweak

                      Geography

                      CaliforniaIndiaThailandUganda

                      Most Popular Articles

                      Video Of The Week - Are Lions Losing Their Edge?
                      World's Biggest Spider Weighs As Much As A Newborn Puppy
                      Just In Time For Halloween - A Real-Life Ghostbuster!
                      Veterans Day - Honoring All Who Served
                      Minecraft As A Mandatory Subject In School? Sweet!
                      Boo Mania Sweeps Over America (And The World)!
                      Are You Ready To 'Gangnam Style'?
                      Video Of The Week - If Frozen Was A Horror Movie . . .

                      Latest Comments

                      Soccer all wrote:

                      iLove thanksgiving so I could ce...
                      Video Of The Week - The History ...

                      awesomedude wrote:

                      man you could make millions sell...
                      Mexico's Crystal Caves

                      ALA