Microscopes are considered some of the most expensive and inconvenient pieces of research equipment ever developed by man. The complex piece of equipment is responsible for curing and identifying diseases since 1644. However, the idea that one can print a freaking microscope onto an A4 sized paper was unheard of until Manu Prakash invented one.
A simple tool like the microscope can be a lifesaver, especially in developing nations where diseases like malaria is ubiquitous. A microscope can correctly diagnose and treat a disease and prevent deaths but access to microscopes is restrained to test labs, causing delays and false diagnoses.
Manu Prakash was on a trip with students in the developing world and noticed how little infrastructure there was to deal with diseases like malaria and dengue. “In Kenya, there are not enough anti-malarial drugs but even still they are given blindly. They are being over-used because people are so scared,” he said.
While sophisticated microscopes may cause a million dollars, Prakash managed to make a more basic microscope that does the job. The microscope is built entirely out of paper and it can be made by simply folding it. Dubbed the Foldscope, the microscope can be fitted on one sheet of A4 paper, which makes it very easy to ship in large quantities.
“You can throw it in water, stand on it, jump on it and throw it from a five-storey building,” said Mr Prakash.
Initially, they made a 1,000 of these microscopes “at a price point where they were almost disposable,” said Prof Prakash.
If you want to know how the foldable microscope works, check out this video where Prakash detected a mosquito from river water that carried the malaria parasite.