High-Powered, 3D-Printed Microscope for Mobile Devices Costs Pennies

There are a few devices that use a variety of approaches to leverage a cell phone camera into a microscope, but many are bulky, expensive, hard to align, or are lower powered. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) researchers have developed an inexpensive, 3D printable version that can magnify a sample by 1,000 times. PNNL made the design specifications available to the public so anyone with access to a 3D printer can make their own microscope. The microscope, made out of plastic and inexpensive glass beads traditionally used for reflective pavement markings at airports, slips over the camera lens of the cell phone and is no thicker than a phone case. It's designed to fit several popular cell phone brands and tablets. The material cost, not including the printer, is under $1. Low cost was a driver in the development, as the microscope needed to be so cheap it could literally be thrown away if it gets contaminated. The researchers believe the device can fill a need for professional first responders identifying biological samples in the field, teachers and students in classrooms, and health workers.