Did you ever think it was possible for your smartphone to work like a portable microscope, and that too at with an investment of only INR1.20? According to what seems to have become a major breakthrough in optics, it has now become possible to convert your smartphone into a working microscope by simply adding a lens to the camera unit of your mobile device.
Researchers from the University of Houston have created an optical lens that can be placed on smartphone to magnify images. The lens is capable of magnifying the images by a magnitude of 120 which is a considerable magnification for a simple lens that is placed on a smartphone’s camera. The lens cost around INR 1.20 which is literally an insignificant amount for such a high productivity tool which could actually benefit schools and clinics with a low-cost and viable alternative. This could also prove to be a major boon for researchers and scientists operating in rural areas where it is not feasible to carry a lot of equipment for studying.
(Source: Gizbot News)
The lens is made of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), a polymer with the consistency of honey, dropped precisely on a preheated surface to cure. The curvature of the lens and the magnification power depends completely on the duration and the temperature to which the material is exposed. One can easily compare these lenses to contact lenses, except for the fact that the PDMS lens are slightly thicker and smaller. However, the softness is similar to contact lenses.
Wei-Chuan Shih, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering said, “The lens attaches directly to a smartphone camera lens without the use of any additional device. It makes it ideal for use with younger students in the classroom. Our lens can transform a smartphone camera into a microscope by simply attaching the lens without any supporting attachments or mechanism.”
Just imagine the convenience that can be achieved with these lens where researchers or doctors can simply attach the lens to the camera of their smartphone and convert their mobile devices into working microscopes. The non-permanent adhesion between the lens and the glass (camera’s lens) allows easy removal of the lens after usage. However, the non-permanent does not indicate in any manner that the adhesive forces are weak in nature.
In order to test the efficiency of the lens, the researchers captured images of a human skin-hair follicle histological slide with both the smartphone-PDMS system and an Olympus IX-70 microscope. At a magnification of 120, the smartphone lens was comparable to the Olympus microscope at a magnification of 100. With a few tweaks made by the use of appropriate software, the image obtained from the lens can be enhanced.
As of now, the lenses are being made by hand using a rustic device that resembles an inkjet printer. If the cost of producing a lens turns out to be only INR 1.20 with such a rustic technology, then you can imagine the cost per unit that would be achieved on a large scale commercial production.
The only thing inhibiting the large scale production of such lenses is the lack of adequate funding. Apparently, the team has taken care of this as well by launching a campaign on Indiegogo with an aim of raising $12000 for the required equipment. This technology has the power to revolutionize research with immense implications in clinical studies as well.
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