Two dollar droplet microscope acccessory for smartphones wins science prize

The scientists behind a $2 microscope lens attachment for smartphones have won an Australian Eureka Prize. Their invention is a clear plastic droplet that can stick on a smartphone lens and create “a cheap high-powered microscope,” reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

Australian National University’s Steve Lee and Tri Phan from the Garvan Institute are the brains behind the invention and were awarded the Eureka Prize in Sydney on Wednesday evening. Phan suggests that the $2 microscope attachment could be used in remote and rural communities to diagnose skin and blood disorders, for example. Also a smartphone, due to its very nature, can quickly and easily share the imagery to a specialist diagnosis unit for example.

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The lenses are made of the same silicon used for contact lenses, but Dr Lee admits they were discovered by a lab ‘accident’. He explained; “Overnight I was a bit lazy and I left a bit of this [silicon gel] rest in the oven. When I came back the next morning I found the really nice sort of curvature, parabolic shape formed within the oven, and then I thought well I can make lenses with that.” We are told that “the uniformity of gravity balancing with surface tension makes the droplet the perfect shape.” That’s another discovery down to serendipity…

The resolving power of these ‘microscope’ lenses is said to be 3 micrometres with a 5MP camera, so a user can see blood vessels inside a worm with it. The $2 device consists of not just a silicon lens but a small unit that plugs into the smartphone. It is hoped to get the device in production within the next six months.

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Mark Tyson

Mark has worked for a number of years as a newshound on other technology news websites. He decided to write for Tech Assimilate thanks to this web site's open embracing vision of the fascinating world of personal technology. Mark has also worked in the printing and advertising industries for tens of years previously.

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