Australian scientists have invented a simple and cheap way of making a high-powered lens that can transform a smart phone into a high-resolution microscope.
Costing less than a cent, the lenses promise a revolution in science and medicine in developing countries and remote areas.
The lens fabrication technique was invented by Dr Steve Lee from The Australian National University (ANU) Research School of Engineering, who collaborated with Dr Tri Phan from Sydney's Garvan Institute of Medical Research to find ways to transform the lentil-sized lens into a medical imaging tool. The lenses are made by using the natural shape of liquid droplets.
"We put a droplet of polymer onto a microscope cover slip and then invert it. Then we let gravity do the work, to pull it into the perfect curvature," Dr Lee said.
"By successively adding small amounts of fluid to the droplet, we discovered that we can reach a magnifying power of up to 160 times with an imaging resolution of four micrometers."
The polymer, polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), is the same as that used for contact lenses, and it won't break or scratch.
"It would be perfect for the third world. All you need is a fine tipped tool, a cover slip, some polymer and an oven," Dr Lee said.
The first droplet lens was made by accident.
"I nearly threw them away. I happened to mention them to my colleague Tri Phan, and he got very excited," Dr Lee said.
"So then I decided to try to find the optimum shape, to see how far I could go. When I saw the first images of yeast cells I was like, 'Wow!'"
Dr Lee and his team worked with Dr Phan to design a lightweight 3D-printable frame to hold the lens, along with a couple of miniature LED lights for illumination, and a coin battery.
The technology taps into the current citizen science revolution, which is rapidly transforming owners of smart phones into potential scientists. There are also exciting possibilities for remote medical diagnosis.
Dr Phan said the tiny microscope has a wide range of potential uses, particularly if coupled with the right smartphone apps.
"This is a whole new era of miniaturisation and portability - image analysis software could instantly transform most smartphones into sophisticated mobile laboratories," Dr Phan said.
"I am most able to see the potential for this device in the practice of medicine, although I am sure specialists in other fields will immediately see its value for them."
Dr Lee said the low-cost lens had already attracted interest from a German group interested in using disposable lenses for tele-dermatology.
"There are also possibilities for farmers," he said. "They can photograph fungus or insects on their crops, upload the pictures to the internet where a specialist can identify if they are a problem or not."
The lens making technology is described in the latest issue of Biomedical Optics Express, published by The Optical Society.
A video will be available from 11pm AEST at http://youtu.be/t63aCxFqDv0.
(NOTE: B-roll vision is available at https://www.dropbox.com/s/0e3aiapse6k9r3a/Droplet_lens_dropbox_VNR_editmaster.mp4 Higher resolution video and photographs are available upon request to the ANU media office on +61 (2) 6125 7979.)
Dr Woei Ming (Steve) Lee
ANU Research School of Engineering
T: +61 (2) 6125 6058
M: +61 (0) 424 742 314
Dr Tri Phan
Garvan Institute of Medical Research
T: +61 (2) 9295 8414
M: +61 (0) 415 888 294
For media assistance, call the ANU media hotline: +61 (2) 6125 7979.
Contact the Garvan Institute on +61 (0) 434 071 326.
ANU Media | Eurek Alert!
SF State astronomer searches for signs of life on Wolf 1061 exoplanet
20.01.2017 | San Francisco State University
Molecule flash mob
19.01.2017 | Technische Universität Wien
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences