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!
Superconductivity: footballs with no resistance
09.02.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie
A deep look into a single molecule
09.02.2016 | Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)
Exceeding critical temperature limits in the Southern Ocean may cause the collapse of ice sheets and a sharp rise in sea levels
A future warming of the Southern Ocean caused by rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere may severely disrupt the stability of the West...
Indications of light-induced lossless electricity transmission in fullerenes contribute to the search for superconducting materials for practical applications.
Superconductors have long been confined to niche applications, due to the fact that the highest temperature at which even the best of these materials becomes...
Researchers at King’s College London and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom have for the first time demonstrated a direct link between the Wbp2 gene and progressive hearing loss. The scientists report that the loss of Wbp2 expression leads to progressive high-frequency hearing loss in mouse as well as in two clinical cases of children with deafness with no other obvious features. The results are published in EMBO Molecular Medicine.
The scientists have shown that hearing impairment is linked to hormonal signalling rather than to hair cell degeneration. Wbp2 is known as a transcriptional...
Pollens, the bane of allergy sufferers, could represent a boon for battery makers: Recent research has suggested their potential use as anodes in lithium-ion batteries.
"Our findings have demonstrated that renewable pollens could produce carbon architectures for anode applications in energy storage devices," said Vilas Pol, an...
Automobiles increase the mobility of their users. However, their maneuverability is pushed to the limit by cramped inner city conditions. Those who need to...
09.02.2016 | Event News
02.02.2016 | Event News
26.01.2016 | Event News
09.02.2016 | Event News
09.02.2016 | Materials Sciences
09.02.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering