Foldscope: Paper Microscope

Last updated on June 4th, 2021

Foldscope is a paper microscope that is built by folding the paper in an origami fashion. Prof. Manu Prakash and Jim Cybulski at Stanford University invented it in 2012.

Unlike a conventional microscope, a foldscope does not require electricity at all. Foldscope is a light and simple instrument that can be built at ultra-low-cost and is simple to use making it accessible to more people across the world. Today’s children of both developing and developed countries,  who hardly use the microscope during school life have been lucky enough to see the biggest revolution in the field of science through the use of a paper microscope.

View TED talk video  of Manuprakash about frugal science and foldscope here:

Foldscope deserves special attention in the present context cause it’s the only microscope that is made up of water-proof paper, ultra-light, and low-cost. It is been said that foldscope is so strong that it can also bear even the weight of the elephant. This microscope has variable magnification ranging from 140 X to 2000 X and can be assembled in less than a minute.

The extraordinary feature of this microscope is that it can be attached to the smartphone with a help of a simple coupler and can be used to take photos and videos in real-time, which is a hard task in other microscopes. Though knowledge is getting free and information is cheap but the experience of science is not. In developing countries, there is a great challenge to impart practical education as scientific instruments are expensive, hard to operate, and need technical expertise to run and maintain. 

Foldscope on the other hand is such a simple instrument that is known not only because of its affordability but also successfully brought the scientific application/discoveries in the classroom, thus bringing smiles and solving/generating curiosities in the children.

Find out how to assemble foldscope

Manu Prakash and his team started a Phase I foldscope project with the help of a funding organization such as the Bill Gates Foundation. They decided to launch 50,000 foldscopes to 135 countries free of cost in the year 2014-2015. The result was so extraordinary that they decided to found the company Foldscope Instruments and started mass production with the aim of launching 1 million foldscopes to the students and citizen scientists around the world during the year 2017-2018 which was accomplished.

There were some promising discoveries using the Foldscope, which was never seen before. It even empowers the community to solve their major problems. Students in Brazil fought malaria and dengue by observing the larva of the mosquito under foldscope. Another group of citizen scientists in Nigeria detected fake drugs using Foldscope thus fighting counterfeit drugs. Doctors in Argentina used this device for screening cervical cancer during the health camp in rural settings.

Till now, thousands of new discoveries were witnessed at foldoscope community (which is an online platform for sharing the captured photos and videos).

You can purchase foldscope from this official website of foldscope.