Earlier this month, we reported about the independent, Kickstarter-funded ‘Micro Phone Lens’ project that promised to turn any smartphone into a proper microscope for a mere $29. Now it seems that Research School of Engineering scientists at the Australian National University have found an even more cost-effective way of turning your smartphone into a microscope. Granted, they probably had more funds and better equipment for their project than the creator of the ‘Micro Phone Lens’.
By baking droplets of transparent silicone in a special oven, the scientists have found a way to easily and cost-effectively create high-quality lenses that can, for example, be attached to smartphone cameras and turn them into proper microscopes. The shape of the lens and therewith its focal length can be altered — increasing magnification — by simply adding more drops of the special silicone onto already baked lenses, and putting them in the oven again.
The scientists estimate that with their process, an ordinary smartphone can be turned into a microscope with 60x magnification. Due to the low cost of the individual lenses, which the paper on the project states as being less than $0.01 AUD, this new process could find widespread application in areas where buying dedicated a $500 tool is out of the question. The lenses could be used in schools for education purposes, for medical examination of skin diseases, or in farming to identify pests in crops.
According to PMA Newsline, the technology could be commercially available in a matter of months. Should these cheap silicone lenses truly see the light of day soon, they could indeed render the Micro Phone Lens project obsolete.