macarthur fellow manu prakash is no regular scientist. throughout his career, the physical biologist has made extraordinary efforts to make ‘doing science’ easier for people around the world. recently, prakash has channeled his resources to invent devices that empower frugal science — a movement which aims to make cheap and easy tools available for scientific use in the developing world. this includes foldscope, a lightweight optical microscope that costs less than a dollar to produce and is assembled from an origami-based folding design from a single sheet of paper with integrated lenses and electronics.
the physical biologist spoke at the 2020 design indaba conference in cape town where designboom learned about the project.
foldscope was created with the idea of solving an accessibility problem in science and to provide low-cost tools to communities around the world. the ultra-affordable paper microscope is both portable and durable, and performs on par with conventional research microscopes with a magnification of 140x and 2 micron resolution. this allows to get a glimpse of bacteria, blood cells, and single-celled organisms, as well as larger things like insects, fabrics, organic tissues and more.
the foldscope is assembled from a punched sheet of cardstock, a spherical glass lens, a light emitting diode and a diffuser panel, along with a battery that powers the LED. once assembled, the foldscope weighs 8 grams and is about the size of a bookmark. magnets are also included in the kit, allowing users to plug the microscope to their phones and take pictures of the magnification. the sheet can be printed on an A4 piece of paper and put together in just seven minutes. prakash actually said on an interview that the foldscope is so strong and sturdy that it can survive being thrown into the water or dropped from a five-story building.
developed by: manu prakash and jim cybulski
presented at: 2020 design indaba
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is a multifaceted platform committed to a better world through creativity. the south-african online publication hosts an annual festival and social impact do tank in cape town. the design indaba festival has been created by ravi naidoo in 1995, with focus on african and global creativity, through the lens of the work and ideas of leading thinkers and doers, opinion formers, trendsetters and industry experts.
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