Add one more thing to the list of tasks your smartphone can perform. University of Houston researchers have released an open-source dataset offering instructions to people interested in building their own smartphone microscope.
The researchers describe the process in a paper published in Biomedical Optics Express, demonstrating that a basic smartphone equipped with an inexpensive inkjet-printed elastomer lens can be converted into a microscope capable of fluorescence microscopy, able to detect waterborne pathogens and perform other diagnostic functions.
Wei-Chuan Shih, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, said fluorescence microscopy is "a workhorse," used in biology, medical diagnostics and other fields to reveal information about cells and tissue that can't otherwise be detected. The technique allows more information to be harvested from fluid, tissue and other samples, but not everyone has access to an optical microscope that can use fluorescence.
It could extend sophisticated imaging techniques to rural areas and developing countries, Shih said. But it also could have more widespread applications, such as allowing backpackers an easy way to test for pathogens in rivers and streams.