2014 R&D 100 Winner
FoldscopeMost microscopes are expensive, built with high-quality metals, optics and electronics to perform with high accuracy. However, not all useful microscopes need to be built this way, and Stanford Univ. has taken this premise to the extreme with a microscope that is made with parts that cost less than $1. A frugal, origami-based solution, the Foldscope can be assembled from 2-D media in less than 10 min, yet can provide more than 2,000X magnification, which is submicrometer resolution.

The Foldscope has three stages (illumination, sample-mounting and optics) cut from synthetic paper and assembled via folding. Other primary components include a spherical glass ball lens in a plastic lens-holder aperture and a light module. The three stages are weaved together to form an assembled microscope that features flexure-based optical focusing and panning capability over a 25 × 25 mm2 region. The instrument is operated by inserting a sample mounted on a microscope slide into the sample mounting stage, turning on the LED using the switch in the light module and viewing the sample while panning and focusing with one's thumbs. The sample is viewed by holding the Foldscope with both hands and placing one's eye close enough to the ball lens so that one's eyebrow is touching the paper.

Pocket microscope

Stanford Univ.

Development Team

Stanford Univ.'s Foldscope development team (l-r): Manu Prakash and James Cybulski.










The Foldscope Development Team from Stanford Univ.
Manu Prakash, Principal Developer
James Cybulski