back to article Polymer droplets turn smartmobes into microscopes

An accidental discovery at the Australian National University (ANU) has created a way to deposit-print small, high-quality optical lenses, in something that's been hailed as “turn a smartphone into an optical microscope”. Not only that, but they use a material already well-known in optics: polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), which is …


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  1. silent_count

    Tee Minus

    Does anyone want to take bets on how long it'll be before Apple patients their latest innovation and then sues the ANU?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Tee Minus

      Nah.. they'll patent the interface... and add rounded corners.

  2. Eddy Ito Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Oh come now, how can you have an article about polydimethylsiloxane and not even mention the silly putty angle?

    Paris because she is not Newton or something like that.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ANU always give their IP away to China

    For instance, solar panels. Saves the bother of being hacked.

  4. Wzrd1

    Now, increase the power just a little and poor villages can have basic labs for microscopic study operate from a smartphone and lab in the city read the results.

    1. vagabondo


      Resolution is the major problem, not magnification. You can get round the latter by using multiple lenses, but thed 4e latter is a show stopper if you are thinking of most medical microbiology and histopathology. The stated 4µm resolution would be useful for identifying plankton, plant fungal pathogens,mites and insects, but not cellular abnormalities. The bigger problem for field medical microscopy probably is not the microscope, but the preparation and staining of thin sections and smears.

  5. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

    Why need a separate lamp and battery?

    Most smart phone cameras have a flash nearby that can be used as torches|flashlights. Stick a light pipe on the housing and you have your lamp. You could cut the light pipe so it was stepped-shape in order to get light from flashes at varying distances.

    At the very least they could always just pull power from the audio jack via a continuous tone at an inaudible frequency.

    1. Def Silver badge

      Re: Why need a separate lamp and battery?

      If you're plugged into the audio jack, why does the tone need to be inaudible?

      1. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

        Re: Why need a separate lamp and battery?

        So that if the audio connector is accidentally removed before the tone is stopped (via closing microscope App or turning the lamp off) then you don't deafen the user or waste the batteries on bluetooth devices (Bluetooth transceivers will filter out inaudible tones to stop feedback loops but the internal speakers will not)

  6. Charles Manning

    Old is new all over again

  7. DougS Silver badge

    This isn't a killer app

    But having a 160x microscope lens on a smartphone would surely open up some interesting new uses.

    1. Crisp Silver badge

      Re: This isn't a killer app

      It would make the pictures of my junk more interesting for a start...

  8. attoman

    truly microscopic breakthrough

    Van Leeuwenhoek did better with a water droplet in 1679.

    The Aussie discovery of natural formation of curved solids (after drying) is interesting and there may well be some novel aspects to it.

    That being said even Leeuwenhoek had means for positioning the sample, focusing the microscope and refocusing on samples with some depth of structure exceeding the depth of focus of the lens. All of which gives Apple, Google or perhaps one of the readers here the opportunity to invent all the elements of microscopy in a cell phone like package.

    There are so many opportunities, and so many people waiting for ideas to expropriate.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: truly microscopic breakthrough

      I don't think this is novel. I thought that people already doing this many years ago.

      1. Pookietoo

        Re: already doing this many years ago

        Using a liquid lens, yes, but not not as a method for casting optical resin into a solid lens.

  9. Robin Bradshaw

    Foldscope excites me more

    A similar system has already been developed at Stanford by Manu Prakash, the Foldscope, apparently it costs around 50 cents, has an XY stage of sorts and can project the image in a darkened room.

    My only question I have is where can I buy some?

    1. Sandpit

      Re: Foldscope excites me more

      uri should end /manu_prakash_a_50_cent_microscope_that_folds_like_origami

      these forums seem to truncate

      1. Mephistro Silver badge

        Re: Foldscope excites me more (@ Sandpit)

        Even if the forums don't show the whole URL, you can still select&copy it, using the "shift"+"end" keys*.

        *: for Linux and Windows users, at least.

      2. Pookietoo

        Re: these forums seem to truncate

        It's still there, it just doesn't display - triple-clicking selects the full line including the bit that's run off the edge.

  10. EddieD

    iPhone only?

    Check the URL...

  11. Vociferous

    Low quality, low applicability.

    You get a very simple single-lens system, meaning low resolution and optical aberrations galore. I suppose a lens like this might be useful where image quality isn't important (solar power?), but for microscopy this is toy-level gear.

    1. John Tserkezis

      Re: Low quality, low applicability.

      "but for microscopy this is toy-level gear."

      Sure, but that doesn't stop some devs from coming up with dB resolution noise level meter apps for iPhones. Users claim them to be "stupid accurate".

      Apparently it doesn't take much to convince your users that it works... Then again, iPhones and all that...

      1. Trygve Henriksen

        Re: Low quality, low applicability.

        When they say "stupid accurate" do they talk about the app or the user?

        1. Mage Silver badge

          Re: Low quality, low applicability.


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