Glass Bead And 3-D Printer Make Cheap, Powerful Microscope


by Txchnologist staff

Researchers working to transform bulky and expensive lab tools so they can be deployed far and wide cracked open their history books to put a cheap microscope in every pocket. 

Rebecca Erikson, an applied physicist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, takes a simple glass bead and embeds it in a housing she built on a 3-D printer that fits over a smartphone’s camera. The system, which costs less than a dollar in materials to produce, can magnify objects up to 1,000 times. She and PNNL have made the 3-D design file freely available for all to use

Erikson’s instrument slips onto a number of smartphones and tablets, and gives the power of microscopic sight to emergency responders needing to identify biological specimens in the field, teachers, students and anyone with access to a 3-D printer. 

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