Software & Hardware Reviews

Educational, Business and Entertainment Software Reviews

Jan. 2015 . Vol. 21 No. 1

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The Incredible Foldscope (TM), an Orgami-based Optical Microcope from Prakash Lab, Stanford University

By Howard Berenbon

Foldscope is an origami-based print-and-fold optical microscope deveoped by Manu Prakash that offers up to 2,000X magnifaction for less than $1 in parts. This is a breakthrough development in low cost--just about free--scientific instrument for medical and educational use. Considering a comparable optical microscope with 2,000X power would cost in the thousands, a cost prohibited by some medical organizations, this could be a true breakthrough for the the diagnosis and treatment of disease and to advance global health.


Manu Prakash is on a mission to provide low cost tools to advanced world heath, and his Foldscope invention is a leap forward towad his goal. Manu is an assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford University,working at the molecular scale and trying to understand how the world really works. Born in Meerut, India, he earned a BTech in computer science and engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, then move to the United States. He worked on his master's and PhD in applied physics at MIT, then founded Prakash Lab at Stanford. In 2012 he won a $100,000 grant from the Gates Foundation for his "print-and-fold" paper microscope.


The Test

I opened the instruction sheet, looked over the perforated paper parts required to build the Foldscope, and then 35 minutes later, I had the completed microscope ready for a test slide. It was more complex to build than I imagined, with 20 detailed steps (photos and text). I'm sure a second build would go much faster. I installed the lower power lens, I think 60X, and prepared a slide with black pepper as my speciman, and was ready for the test. I held up the scope to a light and moved my eyes close to the lens, and low and behold there were the magnified grains of pepper in my view. Great, it worked! Next I tried to add the higher power lens and ran into some construction problems. The instructions weren't clear. I eventually installed the larger lens but had problems with the focus. I realized that the printed instructions needed improvement. Fortunately, asembly help is online with video tutorials at:


If you have a smartphone (who doesn't) they offer an option for taking photos with your camera. You can also protect the image from your phone to a white surface. Another option offered is a solid state LED light module for slide illumination, necessary for use with the higher power lens.


Building the scope was somewhat of a challenge, and more difficult than I expected. The results were impressive, though, especially for its cost (under a $1). At this point I couldn't see it being used as a tool for any serious medical diagnostics (they also mention that in a disclaimer), but it would be excellent for students learning about microscopes, biology and the microscopic world.

For information about Foldscope(TM) visit

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