Small Fold, Big Surprise


Last week I posted a story about Big Origami.

This week, it’s Small Origami.

Namely, an origami microscope.

Source: Foldscope Team

Source: Foldscope Team


The Foldscope website says it as concisely as I possibly could, perhaps due to their experience with efficient use of space:

“Foldscope is an origami-based print-and-fold optical microscope that can be assembled from a flat sheet of paper.

“Although it costs less than a dollar in parts, it can provide over 2,000X magnification with sub-micron resolution (800nm), weighs less than two nickels (8.8 g), is small enough to fit in a pocket (70 × 20 × 2 mm3), requires no external power, and can survive being dropped from a 3-story building or stepped on by a person.

“Its minimalistic, scalable design is inherently application-specific instead of general-purpose gearing towards applications in global health, field based citizen science and K12-science education.”

Source: Foldscope Team

Source: Foldscope Team

An invention of the Stanford University Department of Bioengineering, the body of the microscope can be printed out on card stock; add a lens, an LED light and a button battery. The Foldscope group would like to give away 10,000 microscope sets for testing. You can request your own DIY kit here, and watch the TED talk on the microscope here.

Image: Foldscope Team

Image: Foldscope Team

All that’s needed for the microscope slide is clear adhesive tape, and the device can be configured for different magnifications depending on the type of lens used.

The idea is that an inexpensive tool like this can be widely distributed to areas where a standard microscope would be inaccessible due to price or distribution. A variety  of diseases, from malaria to African sleeping sickness, could be screened using the tool. But the microscope can also be used in classrooms or for field research. And if it gets torn or broken, it is easily replaced.

Foldscope images Source: Foldscope Team

Foldscope images
Source: Foldscope Team

I never expected to be using the words ‘origami’ and ‘microscope’ to describe the same object, but there it is. Today’s pleasant surprise.


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