Houston University recently announced a flexible plastic lens that when put on top of a smartphone camera it can magnify the image by 120 times, like an optical microscope. This invention was first presented at the Journal of Biometrical Optics inspection and as you can imagine it didn’t take long to capture the public interest.
Researcher Yu Lung Sung created the lens almost by accident as he was experimenting with polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), a thick liquid that resembles to honey. Sung noticed that the PDMS stabilizes once it falls on hot surfaces which makes the lens shape more easy to give.
The research team finally created the lens by adjusting the curvature of the heated mold for the solidification of the polymer. The lens can then detect objects with a perimeter of just 1μm!
PDMS can easily stick to glass so all you have to do to attach the lens to your smartphone is push the upper part on the integrated camera’s lens.
In an exhibition of the lens’ capabilities, the research team exhibits photos of a histological plate with human hair follicles which were comparable to the pictures given by the professional Olympus IX-70 microscope.
Sung boasts “It worked on my Nokia Lumia 520”! What’s even crazier about this story is that the cost of the lens does not exceed the amount of $0.33! That means that the improvised microscope made afterwards cost just $20. Now compare that to a professional research level microscope that costs around $10,000. You do the math people!
This little new innovation is destined (as announced) to be used for educational purposes in schools, universities and even small isolated hospitals. However I don’t see any reason to contain its possibilities. It seems like humanity got itself “the next big think”. Just imagine what is going to happen if that lens comes out to the market. I’m sure you can already see the app developers building tones of new apps to support the new trend. Make sure to be the first to get those apps when the time comes!
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