Engineer Builds $10 DIY Cellphone Microscope

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Cellphones are handy in a pinch. They make emergency calls, serve as a late night texting platform, and now in developing areas where money is tight and malaria runs rampant, they can serve as a microscope.

The DIY design is the brainchild of Aydogan Ozcan, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and member of the California NanoSystems Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles. He did it all with some software he wrote and about $10 in off-the-shelf parts, reports the New York Times.

There's actually no lens to speak of, as the magnification is handled entirely by software, holograms and electronics. This, Ozcan says, is what's at the heart of the device's portability and affordability. Better still, this means that a future system based on this design could have the ability to diagnose and research even better than a traditional microscope in the field. Said Bahram Jalali, an applied physicist and professor of electrical engineering at U.C.L.A in an interview with the New York Times, the beauty of the design is in its lack of mechanical scanning.


"Instead you capture holograms of all the cells on the slide digitally at the same time," he said to the Times. This makes it possible to "immediately see pathogens among a vast population of healthy cells." [New York Times]