Well, we’ve seen our iPhones and iPads become almost everything. From DSLR to Joystick-supported gaming console to Over-the-Air Digital TV and from Blood Pressure and ECG machine to a Computer Shutdown Remote - you name it! This time, it’s iPhone’s turn to mold itself into a microscope and spectrometer, at the hands of medical researchers.
This microscope-cum-spectrometer leap-forward is a solid endeavor taken by researchers at the University of California Davis, at Sacramento, California, United States of America. Under the supervision of Sebastian Wachsmann-Hogiu, the team of researchers has embedded a 1mm-diameter (0.003 feet) ball lens into a tiny slip of rubber. This tiny piece of rubber was placed over the lens of an iPhone, knowing that the camera supports 5x magnification zoom. 5x zoom was enough to study out the diseased blood cells, since the pixels squashed onto the camera’s tiny sensor are so little that the resolution of objects of mere 1.5 microns in size turned out to be an easy possibility.
Here’s an excerpt from the research piece that talks in detail about the task carried out:
…two attachments to a commercial cell phone that transform the phone’s integrated lens and image sensor into a 350× microscope and visible-light spectrometer. The microscope is capable of transmission and polarized microscopy modes and is shown to have 1.5 micron resolution and a usable field-of-view of 150×150 with no image processing, and approximately 350×350 when post-processing is applied. The spectrometer has a 300 nm bandwidth with a limiting spectral resolution of close to 5 nm. We show applications of the devices to medically relevant problems. In the case of the microscope, we image both stained and unstained blood-smears showing the ability to acquire images of similar quality to commercial microscope platforms, thus allowing diagnosis of clinical pathologies. With the spectrometer we demonstrate acquisition of a white-light transmission spectrum through diffuse tissue as well as the acquisition of a fluorescence spectrum. We also envision the devices to have immediate relevance in the educational field.
If you’ve been using a microscope more often, you might not find the result of this mod to be as perfect as what a professional microscope can do, but with just $30 spent, this is a job well done – just as good enough to seek out major diseases such as sickle-cell anemia, iron deficiencies etc from blood cells by doctors.
In countries where facilities for medical research are scarce, this could turn out to be a major breakthrough, if thought-about the positive possibilities.