Manu Prakash: A 50-cent microscope that folds like origami

Manu Prakash: A 50-cent microscope that folds like origami


The year is 1800. A curious little invention is being talked about. It’s called a microscope. What it allows you to do is see tiny little lifeforms that are invisible to the naked eye. Soon comes the medical discovery that many of these lifeforms are actually causes of terrible human diseases. Imagine what happened to the society when they realized that an English mom in her teacup actually was drinking a monster soup, not very far from here. This is from London. Fast forward 200 years. We still have this monster soup around, and it’s taken hold in the developing countries around the tropical belt. Just for malaria itself, there are a million deaths a year, and more than a billion people that need to be tested because they are at risk for different species of malarial infections. Now it’s actually very simple to put a face to many of these monsters. You take a stain, like acridine orange or a fluorescent stain or Giemsa, and a microscope, and you look at them. They all have faces. Why is that so, that Alex in Kenya, Fatima in Bangladesh, Navjoot in Mumbai, and Julie and Mary in Uganda still wait months to be able to diagnose why they are sick? And that’s primarily because scalability of the diagnostics is completely out of reach. And remember that number: one billion. The problem lies with the microscope itself. Even though the pinnacle of modern science, research microscopes are
not designed for field testing. Neither were they first designed for diagnostics at all. They are heavy, bulky, really hard to maintain, and cost a lot of money. This picture is Mahatma Gandhi in the ’40s using the exact same setup
that we actually use today for diagnosing T.B. in his ashram in Sevagram in India. Two of my students, Jim and James, traveled around India and Thailand, starting to think about this problem a lot. We saw all kinds of donated equipment. We saw fungus growing on microscope lenses. And we saw people who had a functional microscope but just didn’t know how to even turn it on. What grew out of that work and that trip was actually the idea of what we call Foldscopes. So what is a Foldscope? A Foldscope is a completely functional microscope, a platform for fluorescence, bright-field, polarization, projection, all kinds of advanced microscopy built purely by folding paper. So, now you think, how is that possible? I’m going to show you some examples here, and we will run through some of them. It starts with a single sheet of paper. What you see here is all the possible components to build a functional bright-field
and fluorescence microscope. So, there are three stages: There is the optical stage, the illumination stage and the mask-holding stage. And there are micro optics at the bottom that’s actually embedded in the paper itself. What you do is, you take it on, and just like you are playing like a toy, which it is, I tab it off, and I break it off. This paper has no instructions and no languages. There is a code, a color code embedded, that tells you exactly how to
fold that specific microscope. When it’s done, it looks something like this, has all the functionalities of a standard microscope, just like an XY stage, a place where a sample slide could go, for example right here. We didn’t want to change this, because this is the standard that’s been optimized for over the years, and many health workers are actually used to this. So this is what changes, but the standard stains all remain the same for many different diseases. You pop this in. There is an XY stage, and then there is a focusing stage, which is a flexure mechanism that’s built in paper itself that allows us to move and focus the lenses by micron steps. So what’s really interesting about this object, and my students hate when I do this, but I’m going to do this anyway, is these are rugged devices. I can turn it on and throw it on the floor and really try to stomp on it. And they last, even though they’re designed from a very flexible material, like paper. Another fun fact is, this is what we actually send out there as a standard diagnostic tool, but here in this envelope I have 30 different foldscopes of different configurations all in a single folder. And I’m going to pick one randomly. This one, it turns out, is actually designed specifically for malaria, because it has the fluorescent filters built specifically for diagnosing malaria. So the idea of very specific diagnostic microscopes comes out of this. So up till now, you didn’t actually see what I would see from one of these setups. So what I would like to do is, if we could dim the lights, please, it turns out foldscopes are
also projection microscopes. I have these two microscopes that I’m going to turn — go to the back of the wall — and just project, and this way you will see exactly what I would see. What you’re looking at — (Applause) — This is a cross-section of a compound eye, and when I’m going to zoom in closer, right there, I am going through the z-axis. You actually see how the lenses are cut together in the cross-section pattern. Another example, one of my favorite insects, I love to hate this one, is a mosquito, and you’re seeing the antenna of a culex pipiens. Right there. All from the simple setup that I actually described. So my wife has been field testing some of our microscopes by washing my clothes whenever I forget them in the dryer. So it turns out they’re waterproof, and — (Laughter) — right here is just fluorescent water, and I don’t know if you can actually see this. This also shows you how
the projection scope works. You get to see the beam the
way it’s projected and bent. Can we get the lights back on again? So I’m quickly going to show you, since I’m running out of time, in terms of how much it costs for us to manufacture, the biggest idea was roll-to-roll manufacturing, so we built this out of 50 cents of parts and costs. (Applause) And what this allows us to do is to think about a new paradigm in microscopy, which we call use-and-throw microscopy. I’m going to give you a quick snapshot of some of the parts that go in. Here is a sheet of paper. This is when we were thinking about the idea. This is an A4 sheet of paper. These are the three stages that you actually see. And the optical components, if you
look at the inset up on the right, we had to figure out a way to manufacture lenses in paper itself at really high throughputs, so it uses a process of self-assembly and surface tension to build achromatic lenses in the paper itself. So that’s where the lenses go. There are some light sources. And essentially, in the end, all the parts line up because of origami, because of the fact that origami allows us micron-scale precision of optical alignment. So even though this looks like a simple toy, the aspects of engineering that go in something like this are fairly sophisticated. So here is another obvious thing that we would do, typically, if I was going to show that these microscopes are robust, is go to the third floor and
drop it from the floor itself. There it is, and it survives. So for us, the next step actually is really finishing our field trials. We are starting at the end of the summer. We are at a stage where we’ll be
making thousands of microscopes. That would be the first time where we would be doing field trials with the highest density of microscopes ever at a given place. We’ve started collecting data for malaria, Chagas disease and giardia from patients themselves. And I want to leave you with this picture. I had not anticipated this before, but a really interesting link between hands-on science education and global health. What are the tools that we’re actually providing the kids who are going to fight this monster soup for tomorrow? I would love for them to be able to just print out a Foldscope and carry them around in their pockets. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Manu Prakash: A 50-cent microscope that folds like origami

  1. How did they have a "monster" soup in a tea cup in the past? I don't drink tea but isn't that made with boiled water?

  2. I would like to sell these in India. Seriously!! Wonder whats the setup cost, production capacity and material spec.

  3. After hearing and reading lots about this Foldscope, and how people are trying to monopolize from other's curiosity and ignorance, I came to the conclusion that the whole concept is a scam. If you need a cheap 140x microscope for in the field in poor countries, and one that works better, perhaps the Gates Foundation should have contracted the Chinese to make one that runs on a solar charged penlight battery. It may cost them a buck fifty instead of less than a dollar (bullshit) each, but at least it would work better and be more reliable. That and the Chinese would sell to everyone for a couple dollars, unlike the Foldscope which is being peddled for $25 or more plus hugh S/H fees, all while they keep bragging that it costs less than a buck to make, implying that you and I can do so.
    What they fail to mention is that they may cost less than a buck, but only if you have 50,000 plus manufactured for you.
    This video states, Ideas Worth Spreading….. Much like manure.

  4. 2014 now the end of 2017, not seen till the date in the market or in the hands of ASHA workers. Therefore this is not reached even early affordable poors.

  5. And yet when people like me ask to be able to make multiple purchases, we are not even give the politeness of even a reply from their email address. Hardly efficient, polite or businesslike.

  6. This 50-cent microscope that folds like origami will really cost USA$ 25, as per sharing science: one can not join the "microcosmos community" using hardware from any other microscope company. So forget it if you own and use a $15 pocket microscope from some other manufacturer. $25 is hardly affordable to the vast majority of poor people on the planet and the cell phone would really be beyond the reach of those same people so participating in the microcosmos community will be beyond them in any case. Please do not misunderstand me! I think much of the work that the Frugal science lab is doing IS WONDERFUL! I hope that where blood testing and medical work is concerned that the mark-up on their products is much less. Better still, if they released production rights to desperate areas of the world, to enable any population to create these tools for their own use to save the lives of their people then the dream of all those billions of blood tests would more likely be realized. I suspect the University and the lab have the patent rights and if true, only they may produce and sell the means.

  7. At 2 minutes 37 seconds "they didn't know how to turn it on"… Use a flashlight or use sunlight?? Replace batteries or plug it in??? What is that it makes no sense but the foldscope is a genius idea

  8. Our Fold Scope Arrived in Dubai ; Me and my 5yr Old Kid are having a Lot of FUN…https://youtu.be/B3OtZ2ResYw

  9. We, KM higher secondary school, Aizawl, Mizoram one of the state in INDIA have this foldscope for the foldscope project, it is much easier to carry and use than microscope

  10. Hello manu Prakash sir….I have been visited Lucknow for attending IISF….I meet you there…I am the one who asked you about white whole…do you remember…I am huge fan of you….I like your way of talking …. it is a little strange to believe that you are a Indian…but it is a matter of great joy that an Indian man discover foldscope …..at IISF you taught our group to make the microcosmos foldscope…..thank you so much😍☺☺

  11. No words to thank you. Aap ka mangal ho. You will bring revolution in medical test .
    We don't need to consume unnecessary antibiotics or medicine. Thank you. .I will pray for you.Please contact Ratan tataji if you need any type of help.
    Namh shivay.

  12. Plz sir make it plz in large amount
    I'm medical student on GBSSS mb road pushp vihar and we need these types of cheap microscope
    But it available in 500 rupees of cost in Amazon and Flipkart

  13. But online the same foldoscope costs in developing countries like India at 80 to 100 dollars.
    what's there for the invention if you are inventing for 50 cent and it is sold for 100 dollars on amazon

  14. Barely anyone comments. Amazing speech dude. I've always wanted a microscope and I definitely want to get my hands on this. The comment rate is extremely high. 10k likes and less than 100 dislikes.

  15. Now it costs 1 Dollar. Nevertheless, I believe at 10 USD, the microscope could still be improved further and is still affordable.

  16. If it's 50 cent's then why did I pay ₹599 for foldscope ? I brought from #Amazon if my product is not genuine how can I get one ?

  17. There are plenty of microscopes available even in PHCs.Even rural people can get a peripheral smear diagnosis in one day.
    This guy is a scammer like many indian inventors.
    You can get a compound microscope for 2000 rupees and it's much durable and lasts for years. Plus it's comfortable to sit with a proper microscope as one needs to check hundreds of peripheral smears.

  18. Bad quality microscope. And not so cheap as promised 39$ at amazon. But scam of the highest level to get all fame, show and fund money. you can buy a better quality cheaper usb microscope.

  19. Hi . i emailed this inventor to investigate the use of oscillating magnetic fields to disable the malaria parasite which had been shown by professor Lai in 2010 i think. This guy was not interested and only wanted to make money from his over priced card board microscope. the retail price is quite high. He is only interested in making money not treating malaria.

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