High-resolution microscope is built with Lego and cheap smartphone lenses
By taking advantage of recent advances in smartphone technology and the infinite possibilities of Lego, scientists in Germany have built a cheap and easy high-resolution microscope. Part educational tool and part toy, the fully-functional scientific instrument is not just for imaging microsopic objects, but can be used to teach kids about how these devices function and come together.
The project was carried out by researchers from the Universities of Göttingen and Münster, who set out to improve access to high-resolution microscopes that are typically too expensive and fragile for folks to have in their homes. This led them to modern-day smartphones, which now carry lenses so advanced they have the capacity to resolve individual cells. On top of that, the team was able to obtain them for around €4 (US$5) apiece.
The scientists then designed the surrounding structure for a high-resolution microscope based purely on Lego building blocks. The resulting device is claimed to have capabilities close to a modern research microscope, offering the magnification and resolution needed to image micrometer-sized objects.
To accompany the development of this cost-effective microscope, the scientists also produced a manual for its construction with step-by-step instructions.
This was used to guide a group of 9-13 year olds through the process of building the device, with the scientists monitoring their progress throughout and helping them through trickier sections like aligning the two magnifying glasses and securing a good source of light. The scientists surveyed the kids and, perhaps unsurprisingly, found that this significantly improved their understanding of microscopy.
"We hope that this modular microscope will be used in classrooms and homes all over the world to excite and inspire children about science," says Professor Timo Betz, University of Göttingen. "We have shown that scientific research does not need to be separate from everyday life. It can be enlightening, educational and fun!"
Source: University of Göttingen