In the aftermath of our annual ritual for receiving the newest and shiniest iPhones, let's not forget that even our slightly outdated phones are pretty nifty devices. With a cheap glass bead, a 3D-printed clip, and the camera of an old phone, scientists have made a powerful microscope with up to 1000x magnification. And better yet, they've shared the instructions—all two steps of it.
Not only is the microscope easy to make, but it's cheap. Not counting cost of the phone and a 3D printer, the materials for each microscope came out to less than a dollar. This small, portable, and disposable lens could be perfect for letting kids peer at the nuclei of cells or letting technicians examine samples out in the field.
Over at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the team that developed the design has posted the 3D printer files for the clip that holds the glass bead in place. Different sizes of glass beads can be swapped out to for 100x, 350x, and 1000x magnification.
Using glass beads for magnification isn't a completely new idea, of course. If you don't have a 3D printer, you can try hacking together a phone microscope together with some tape and rubber. But the 3D printed design is more streamlined and even includes a slideholder. And if for whatever reason you need a few dozen of these, well, go 3D print to your heart's content. [PNNL]