Pocket Microscope Pairs With Smart Phones for Scientists In The Field

cell phone microscope photo© VTT

When it comes to cameras on our phones, it seems like the technology is constantly improving, and that goes for add-on lenses for photography -- or for science. The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has come up with a smart way to combine mobile phone technology and microscopy. This add-on accessory for turning your smart phone into a microscope is accurate to one hundredth of a millimeter.

cell phone microscope photo© VTT

The device is simple enough -- it is essentially a powerful macro lens, with embedded LED lights, that fits magnetically over the phone's existing camera lens. Images are produced by the camera phone that use the add-on lens to create sharp, high resolution images. The images can then be studied for things like surface changes -- and because the surface is lit from several directions by the LEDs, the images could be made into 3D with software.

cell phone microscope photo© VTT

The researchers state, "Among those who will benefit from the device are the printing industry, consumers, the security business, and even health care professionals. A new Finnish enterprise called KeepLoop Oy and VTT are already exploring the commercial potential of the invention. The first industrial applications and consumer models will be released in early 2012."

Possible uses for science include studying forms in the field, including leaves, insects, and other objects with minute details that need a close-up look.

It's a great way to improve an existing device with as few materials as possible, helping researchers, scientists, and even citizen scientists to have better, portable tools without having to invest in a brand new device.

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