This $1 foldable microscope could change science education as we know it

Foldscope foldable microscope paper
Microscope kits may invoke a sweet nostalgia for many adults today, but future generations of children in science classes may enjoy an entirely different microscopy experience. A research team at Stanford University has created a foldable paper microscope to help democratize science education for less than a dollar.

The origami-based paper microscope, Foldscope, comprises a simple list of parts: a sheet of plastic-coated paper (6 cents), a ball lens (17 cents for low magnification, 56 cents for high magnification), a 3-volt battery (6 cents), an LED light (21 cents), a switch (5 cents) and some copper tape (3 cents). Don’t pull out your calculator – that’s 58 cents for the low-magnification version of the Foldscope and 97 cents for the high-magnification version, based on a 10,000-unit production.

Related: Small, cheap lenses baked out of silicone turn any smartphone into a microscope

The printer used to print instructional lines on the sturdy paper also “prints” the lens onto the paper. “You should think of it as a drop of glue, a tiny drop of glue, except it is an optical-quality glue,” according to Manu Prakash, a bioengineer whose eponymous team (PrakashLab) created the Foldscope.

Foldscope foldable microscope demoWhile the affordability is certainly noteworthy, the DIY microscope is capable of providing more than 2,000x magnification. It also takes less than 10 minutes to fold, weighs less than two nickels, fits neatly into a pocket, and is rugged enough to survive a three-story drop or an accidental step on its frame.

One of the benefits of this low-cost, mass-production-friendly microscope is the potential for widespread hands-on use in K-12 science classrooms and universities. “Many children around the world have never used a microscope, even in developed countries like the United States,” according to PrakashLab’s research article about the Foldscope. “A universal program providing ‘a microscope for every child’ could foster deep interest in science at an early age.”

The Foldscope also has applications for general scientific and medical use in the field, along with the community of amateur microscopists across the globe, according to PrakashLab.

The team recently looked for 10,000 beta testers as part of its Ten Thousand Microscope Project, which aims to test the Foldscope in various settings and produce an open-source field manual. Prakash says 50,000 units of their foldable microscope will soon ship to testers in 130 countries.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

If you want Samsung's advanced folding phone, be prepared to pay a lot for it

Samsung has been showcasing bendable display tech for a few years and now a folding smartphone might finally arrive. The Galaxy X, or perhaps the Galaxy Fold, may be the company's first example. Here's everything we know about it.
Emerging Tech

Meet Wiliot, a battery-less Bluetooth chip that pulls power from thin air

A tiny chip from a semiconductor company called Wiliot could harvest energy out of thin air, the company claims. No battery needed. The paper-thin device pulls power from ambient radio frequencies like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cell signals.

From DIY to AAA, here's how to take a passport photo in 6 different ways

If you're applying for a passport or renewing one, you need to submit a photo in your official application. There are strict guidelines, but fortunately, it's something you can do at home. Here's how to take a passport photo.
Emerging Tech

Hexbot is a modular robot arm that does everything from drawing to playing chess

Who wouldn’t want their own personal robot arm to do everything from laser engraving to competing against you in a game of chess? That's what Hexbot, a new modular robot, promises to deliver.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world will take your breath away

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Google’s radar-sensing tech could make any object smart

Computer scientists have shown how Google’s Soli sensor can be used to make dumb objects smart. Here's why radar-powered computing could finally make the dream of smart homes a reality.
Emerging Tech

Too buzzed to drive? Don’t worry — this autonomous car-bar will drive to you

It might just be the best or worst idea that we've ever heard: A self-driving robot bartender you can summon with an app, which promises to mix you the perfect drink wherever you happen to be.
Emerging Tech

Scientists successfully grow human blood vessels in a Petri dish

Researchers have managed to grow human blood vessels in a Petri dish for the first time, and even to successfully implant them into live mice. The results could be a game-changer for diabetes.
Emerging Tech

Tiny animals discovered in Antarctic lake deep beneath the ice

Scientists have made a surprising discovery in Antarctica: the carcasses of tiny animals including crustaceans and a tardigrade were found in a lake that sits deep beneath over half a mile of Antarctic ice.
Emerging Tech

How long is a day on Saturn? Scientists finally have an answer

The length of Saturn's day has always been a challenge to calculate because of the planet's non-solid surface and magnetic field. But now scientists have tracked vibrations in the rings to pin down a final answer.
Emerging Tech

Tiny microbots fold like origami to travel through the human body

Tiny robots modeled after bacteria could be used to deliver drugs to hard to reach areas of the human body. Scientists have developed elastic microbots that can change their shape depending on their environment.
Emerging Tech

Dinosaurs never stood a chance after asteroid impacts doubled 290M years ago

The number of asteroids pummeling Earth jumped dramatically around 290 million years ago. By looking at Moon craters, scientists discovered that d the number of asteroid impacts on both Earth and the Moon increased by two to three times.
Emerging Tech

Saturn didn’t always have rings, according to new analysis of Cassini data

Saturn's rings are younger than previously believed, according to new data gathered from the Cassini mission. The rings are certainly less than 100 million years old and perhaps as young as 10 million years old.