Special origami microscope costs less than $0.50 to make

The light microscope changed science and medicine forever, but in the 400-plus years since it was invented, this crucial piece of equipment has gotten pretty expensive and fragile. Manu Prakash and his team have designed a brilliant solution—an origami microscope that costs less than 50 cents to make. Prakash first showed the idea in a 2012 TED talk, and in a research paper published this week, Prakash and his team demonstrate the reliable, precise optical capabilities of their cheekily-named Foldscope.

A new microscope can be printed on a flat piece of paper and assembled with a few extra components in less than 10 minutes. All the parts to make it cost less than a dollar, according to Stanford bioengineer Manu Prakash and colleagues, who describe their origami optics this week in a paper published on arxiv.org. The goal, as Prakash explains in a TED talk posted today, is to provide a cheap medical screening tool that could be widely used in the developing world. Because the microscopes can be printed by the thousands, they could also be used for education and field research.

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