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Foldscope – origami paper microscopes set to save lives for under $1 each


Bioengineer Manu Prakash of Stanford University has come up with an excellent design for an ultra cheap paper based folding microscope which could provide low cost health monitoring and diagnosis in areas where conventional scopes are too expensive.

The Foldscope is made from a single sheet of paper or thin card stock, and once assembled can deliver magnification levels of 2000x, which rival conventional field microscopes. The project is part of what the team calls ‘frugal science’, which aims to deliver quality science tools at dramatically lower prices than on the commercial market.


The paper marvel is not only extremely cheap to make, but also robust, needs no external power and can be incinerated after use. The developers have just completed the first round call for beta testers, which will be starting at any moment, after which the kits/design will be available to all.


The Foldscope will eventually be used for medical diagnosis as well as educational purposes, and the team are already hard at work on specialist versions for different field requirements. You can find the original paper here. Take a look at the video below to see how to fold your own model, although it’s clear the process is not as easy as making a paper plane.

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