My Smartphone is a Microscope

By Carlos Garcia

Sebastion Wachsmann-Hogiu, a physicist at the Center for Biophotonics, Science and Technology at the University of California has transformed his iPhone into a high-powered scientific microscope. With a few simple modifications, your smartphone is capable of observing tiny blood cells and may also be used as a spectroscope for measuring vital signs. A few years ago Wachsmann-Hogiu was thinking about creating tools to help doctors do tests right at the site where they’re caring for patients. The surprise breakthrough came after he noticed the forming of water droplets on the top of his iPhone camera. The droplets magnified the image, so he took a tiny 1-millimeter lens and attached it to the phone. Not only is the image remarkable but also offers a small, lightweight, portable and cheap alternative to similar laboratory devices that can cost thousands of dollars and be incredibly bulky.

Researches have even created cellphone laboratory kits for high schools. Aydogan Ozcan of the University of California at Los Angeles, who helped develop an award-winning $10 microscope for cellphones stated, “They’re further miniaturizing this stuff. But we also need to focus on getting these innovative designs out in the field, tested, improved and saving the lives of people,” also adding, “In that sense, all of us working on this technology are in the same boat.” The ultimate goal for Wachsmann-Hogiu, Ozcan, and other researchers is to develop the technology to be as simple and practical, and mobile as possible. Wachsmann-Hogiu stated, “It still amazes me how you can build near-research-grade instruments with cheap consumer electronics,” said Wachsmann-Hogiu “And with cellphones, you can record and transmit data anywhere. In rural or remote areas, you could get a diagnosis from a professional pathologist halfway around the world.” 

Wachsmann-Hogiu and his team tested different ranges of lenses between 1 and 3 millimeter and found that the smaller the lens, the more it magnifies. "We found that the small lenses are good for microscopy of blood cells while the larger lenses could be good for skin and dermatological applications," he says. Currently it costs about $20 to create the microscope and a few dollars to create the spectroscope. Wachsmann-Hogiu says it could easily drop below $10 soon. Researchers believe we will see much more consumer technology like this in the near future, which will bring faster, cheaper, and much needed aid to help save lives. More Information about this article can be found by selecting the url's below