The Ultimate in Portability and Effectiveness - 1000X
The iPhone microscope combines portability and effectiveness. A wide range
of microscopes and microscopy techniques have been developed over the years for
a wide variety of applications both at home and for professional use.
there is a wide variety of compound and stereo microscopes on the market that have become more
available and affordable over the years, they are still not as popular as other modern technological devices like smartphones and ipads. However, with recent
developments, it is possible to own an effective microscope using the iPhone which is both
affordable and conveniently portable.
While technological advancements have seen
microscopes being improved to produce high quality images, there are many people who still feel that microscopes are bulky, which makes them challenging to use outdoors in the field.
To overcome these challenges and make microscopes available to everyone, physicists
have come up with a way through which smartphones can be used to magnify an
object by up to 1000x (Mathews, 2014).
Using a 3D printed system that can be
attached to the iPhone, it is now possible to convert the iphone to a
microscope with as high as 1000x magnification to effectively observe a
variety of objects/specimen including a variety of diseases causing parasites
such as malaria parasites and other plasmodium.
Creating the iPhone 1000X Microscope
The 1000x iPhone microscope was designed
between 2014 and 2015 and uses a small glass bead as the microscope lens. Using
a 3D printer, a case is produced that is specific to the type of Smartphone
being used. There are several free designs available from which the half cases
can be printed out (Mathews, 2014). A glass bead of the right size for given
cases then has to be inserted in to the case for different magnifications. The
following are the different types of beads available for magnification.
3mm bead - a 3mm bead magnifies
the object by 100x
1mm - a 1mm bead will
magnify the object by 350x
0.3mm bead - this size of
bead magnifies the object by 1000x
* While all the other magnifications can be
achieved on other smartphones, 1000x magnification is only available for iphone.
Video by pnnl.gov
This technology was designed to help first
responders be able to look at samples using a Smartphone and send images
forward for more analysis. It is also for this reason that the technology is
cheap. In particular, this has been shown to present a great advantage for
first responders to be able to simply discard the attachment or replace the beads in case
of contamination or when need be.
With free designs of the case online, users with
3D printers at home or work can simply print out the case (attachment) on to
their iPhone that can then simply be used as a microscope. The following is an
image of the attachment and beads;
By combining the iPhone with the 3D printed clip
(half case) users will not only be able to create an inexpensive microscope,
but also a powerful device that is superior to a number of microscopes in the
The 3D printed clip easily slips over the lens of the camera (of the
phone). It is no thicker than the typical phone case, which enhances its
portability. The clip has also been designed to fit a variety of smartphones as
well as ipads, which makes it convenient for users with several of such
Using the iPhone Microscope
Although it is possible for users to simply try creating the iphone microscope using tape and rubber, it is much better and
convenient to use the 3D streamlined design that is more stable and even comes
with a slide holder. This makes the microscope more stable and easier to use
out in the field.
For new users, using 100x magnification (from 3mm beads) is recommended
in order to get started with the system. 1000x is more sensitive and may take
some time to get accustomed to. In any case, it is usually always recommended to start with low
magnification when first using a microscope device.
When using this system, the lens (bead) has to
be pushed in to the plastic housing to the point where the lens is flush with
the housing. In the event that the camera has some trouble focusing, then it is
important to check the lens placement so as to ensure that the lens is seated
well in the housing case. If these issues continue to be experienced, including
blurry image or dark spots that won't go away even after rubbing the lens with
alcohol, the lens can simply be removed and replaced.
As mentioned above, the iPhone microscope is
both portable and cheap. For this reason, it is being widely used in parts of
Africa, and other parts of the world to detect diseases and help patients seek
In parts of Central Africa, a bite from a deer fly, mosquitoe or a mango fly may result in patients being infected by a worm (a nematode)
that is typically localized in the eye. Although the parasite causes a little
itching and swelling, taking a dose of ivermectin used in the region to
eradicate the parasite may result in such complications as hemorrhaging and
neurological problems that can also lead to death.
By using these
inexpensive and portable microscopes, it has become possible to screen and
identify those with the parasite in a matter of minutes and thus determine
those who can be treated using specific drugs effectively. Here, it is possible to see the
significance of this microscope with regards to fast intervention (Williams, 2015).
Apart from the Loa Loa worm, the iPhone
microscope is also being successfully used to identify the presence of malaria
parasites in blood. Malaria parasites (Plasmodium falciparum) are also
transmitted by mosquitoes and once in the body (human body) they can be found
in blood (red cells).
In the blood cells, these organisms speed up the
synthesis of glucose and render the cell permeable to a variety of molecules.
Although this does not cause the cell to rupture, it causes damage to the red
blood cells as the parasite continues to reproduce. Untreated, malaria can
Because the iPhone microscope has high
magnification, one is able to observe a cell's interior and identify the parasite and determine whether an individual has
malaria for further analysis and treatment.
is an image of red blood cells infected with malaria parasites (the bluish ring
shaped organisms in the cell)
The iPhone microscope presents a number of
benefits that makes it a valuable device. These include:
Very cheap - Not including the 3D printer, the attachments used to create
the iPhone microscope are very cheap. For this reason, these parts can be
replaced at very little cost.
Easy to use - With this device, all the user needs is the iPhone, the glass
beads and the case. The lens (beads) can be easily inserted into the case,
which is then easily attached onto the iphone. This also comes with a slide
holder where the glass slide can be attached for viewing. Perfect for novices.
Portable- Users can easily carry this device into the field, where it can
be used to view and identify a wide range of objects. When not in use, the
parts can simply be detached in order to use the phone.
Limitation - One of the main limitations of the iphone is
that images may be unclear because there isn't a light source.
The iphone microscope is a step forward in
microscopy. It presents a number of advantages that make it a valuable tool in
detecting some diseases and thus seeking early treatment. Apart from its
medical applications, the fact that it involves the use of a Smartphone means that it is completely accessible to be used by everyone. The parts needed for attachment
are very cheap and can be replaced with ease.
It can be used both
professionally in various fields as well as at home by both hobbyists and
beginners. Here, it is important to point out that this is not a toy or a toy
like microscope, but rather a powerful microscope that can be used to not only
observe macro-organisms, but also micro-organisms like single celled organisms
and their nuclei. As such, it presents a lot of opportunities for all users and
Lee Mathews (2014) 3D-printed clip-on Smartphone
microscope magnifies 1000x
Sarah C. P. Williams (2015) Microscope made from
smart phone diagnoses deadly African parasite.
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The material on this page is not medical advice and is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment. Although care has been taken when preparing this page, its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Scientific understanding changes over time.