Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

Foldscope: A new paper microscope


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Foldscope

Mains level: NA


Researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, have developed a cheap paper microscope (foldscope) connected to a smartphone camera that could find wider application in a variety of research areas, and in some cases potentially replace more expensive equipment.

What is Foldscope?

  • The Foldscope is a handheld microscope made mostly of paper that can be easily linked to a smartphone camera.
  • It has a magnification of around 140x and can identify objects just 2 micrometres wide.
  • It was first created by researchers at Stanford University in 2014.
  • IISc version of Foldscope costs around Rs 400, much cheaper than that of Stanford’s one.

How is Foldscope comparable to electron microscope?

  • The researchers found that Foldscope could capture the roundness and aspect ratio of an object to within 5% of those imaged by a state-of-the-art instrument called a scanning electron microscope (SEM).
  • SEM costs more than Rs 50 lakh each.
  • Preparing a sample for study through a Foldscope takes less than an hour, whereas the same process for an SEM was “tedious and time-consuming”.

Potential applications

  • Foldscopes can be used in pharmaceuticals (to inspect drug products), environmental science (to observe pollutants), and cosmetics (to observe powders and emulsions), among other fields.
  • They can also be used to study “soil particles’ morphology,” which can “help understand soil structure, nutrient availability, and plant growth” in agriculture.
  • It allows for in-field soil analysis and visualisation of soil structure per Indian Standard Soil Classification System which earlier required bulky microscopes with high resolution.

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