Use Your Smartphone as a Microscope for Less Than $10

FY4TBHSHMMFBB4V.LARGE[Yoshinok] recently posted an Instructable on doing a $10 smartphone-to-microscope conversion. The hack isn’t so much a conversion as just a handy jig, but it’s still interesting. The basic idea is to set up a platform for the slides, and to mount the smartphone directly above. The trick, and the reason this can be called a microscope, is that [Yoshinok] embeds the lens from a cheap laser pointer into the smartphone holder. He is able to get 40x optical magnification with the lens, and even though it sacrifices quality, he uses the built-in digital zoom to get up to 175x magnification.

By itself, you could use this with a light source to magnify 3D objects. [Yoshinok] demonstrates this with a dime. But since the slide holder is made of clear acrylic, he mounted a cheap LED flashlight in the base to serve as through-sample lighting. Using this setup, he was able to observe the process of plasmolysis.

If you have kids, this is certainly a project to do with them, but we can’t help but think it will be useful for non-parents alike. This sort of magnification is good enough for simple lab experiments, and given that most Hack-a-Day readers have these parts lying around, we figure the cost is closer to $0. If you give it a try, let us know your results in the comments!

Comments

  1. Aron says:

    Simple & Easy… with Great Results !

  2. rasz says:

    I saw this very hack for the first time about 5-7 years (???) in one of Jeri Ellsworths The Fat Man and Circuit Girl shows. I think it was Ben Krasnow who showed it using laser pointer and white wall back then.

  3. Arron Bates says:

    digital zoom “sacrificing quality”… um, digital “zoom” is the exact same as resizing larger in Photoshop, seriously not even worth mentioning. It’s actually worse than scaling up in photoshop, because photoshop can use higher quality bicubic interpolation.

  4. static says:

    Very inexpensive except for the smartphone component. ;)

  5. Mike says:

    Great idea. this should be inspiration for kids of all ages to jump into science.

  6. echodelta says:

    The best hack of this is for doctors and pathologists to connect in poor undeveloped Africa. Put blood smear into cell phone add-on while in a tent, distant pathologist has samples to look at.
    Africa has more cellphones than US and Canada combined, they never had many land lines.

  7. garym53 says:

    Aldi sold a digital microscope for around 20-30 bucks – works great – it allowed me to identify this little bastard that was biting me every early spring…

    • Eirinn says:

      Be careful with ticks, they can carry Borealis which is incredibly nasty. Not sure about species, but in Denmark there’s a risk that they’re infected. Be sure to get the head out along with the body. It can snap off and stay inside – ew.

      • noouch says:

        That’s Borreliosis (Lyme disease), and yeah it’s probably on the list of diseases you really definitely don’t want in your life.

      • Whatnot says:

        You need to have a tick on you for a 3 days to get infected (if at all) as I recall , so it’s no risk if you actually know where the tick is, it’s risky if it can crawl somewhere and you not noticing for some time it attached itself to some unnoticed spot like you back or something.

      • garym53 says:

        Indeed, this was an example of how to identify the enemy – a worry indeed, but only one to add to the list of black, trap door, red back, funnel web, etc. spiders, red bellied black snakes, and 7 foot tall aggressive kangaroos… Oh and today I had a swarm of flying termites…

  8. Kerimil says:

    Personally I prefer webcams as microscopes. Though these days you can buy dirt cheap ready-made webcam microscopes. I am probably going to buy one for my daughter. Though first I am going to have some fun with it and see if I could use open CV with it and if it could be useful

  9. Tom the Brat says:

    The expensive part is the cellphone, but what kid is running around these days without a cellphone able to take pictures? Even MY kids have them!

  10. Ren says:

    So, can I use it to take out slivers?

  11. robomonkey says:

    Hm, I’ve got an old microscope my FIL sent my way…wonder how this hack would do with a real live microscope. Guess I’ll be finding out.

  12. rishabh mazumdar says:

    can we do it with any other samartphone??

  13. Anonymous says:

    Nice and clean of a hack
    think to experiment with water crystals .
    or how about hack and past it with a tripod that way yo could use it in any position and any object and no hands hmmm…just keep on tinkering people the future is near.

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