iPhone Smartphone as a Microscope

Smartphone Attatchment with Adaptor:  Uses Lens of  iPhone:  Reviews on Amazon!


 iPhone, Android, Blackberry or any Smartphone, with an attatchment and an app, can be turned into a microscope.  Matter of fact, there is a micropscope attatchment, that allows the iPhone or Smartphone, to be connected to almost any microscope.  It is called the “SkyLight“., and is offered on Amazon, and discussed at the bottom of this page.  This iPhone Microscope uses the asset of the lens of the iPhone5, and has received rave reviews.    The Smartphone should be thought of as a powerful mini-computer, with a state-of-the-art photo equipment.  Yes, that little thing.  It can be converted to a powerful, picture-taking camera, to act as a supremely useful  peripheral device to a Smartphone.

Of course, this would not be need in most labs, but in rural area, in underdeveloped countries, it would  have unlimited potential.  No phone connection is needed, simply the peripheral and the smartphone without an internet connection.  Of course, a connection would be needed if the image is sent to other parts of the world to be interpreted.

Here’s a comparison of microscope photos taken with a high-resolution camera, and one with the smartphone:


WASHINGTON, Oct. 3—In a feat of technology tweaking that would rival MacGyver, a team of researchers from the University of California, Davis has transformed everyday iPhones into medical-quality imaging and chemical detection devices. With materials that cost about as much as a typical app, the decked-out smartphones are able to use their heightened senses to perform detailed microscopy and spectroscopy.  The team will present their findings at the Optical Society’s (OSA) Annual Meeting, Frontiers in Optics (FiO) 2011, taking place in San Jose, Calif. Oct. 16-20.

The enhanced iPhones could help doctors and nurses diagnose blood diseases in developing nations where many hospitals and rural clinics have limited or no access to laboratory equipment. In addition to bringing new sensing capabilities where they are needed most, the modified phones are also able transmit the real-time data to colleagues around the globe for further analysis and diagnosis.

“Field workers could put a blood sample on a slide, take a picture, and send it to specialists to analyze,” says Sebastian Wachsmann-Hogiu, a physicist with UC Davis’ Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and the Center for Biophotonics, Science and Technology, and lead author of the research to be presented at FiO.

Even though smartphone micrographs are not as sharp as those from laboratory microscopes, they are able to reveal important medical information, such as the reduced number and increased variation of cells in iron deficiency anemia, and the banana-shaped red blood cells characteristic of sickle cell anemia.

Wachsmann-Hogiu’s team is working with UC Davis Medical Center to validate the device and determine how to use it in the field. They may also add features, such as larger lenses to diagnose skin diseases and software to count and classify blood cells automatically in order to provide instant feedback and perhaps recognize a wider range of diseases.

The aim of the researchers was to enhance the iPhone on a small budget. This way it could offer help in areas without laboratory facilities and, combined with the data transfer capabilities of the phone, it can be used to share images with colleagues all over the world.

Using 5x magnification ball lenses (1 millimeter-diameter) and the high resolution of the camera’s semiconductor sensor, the iPhone microscope could distinguish features on the order of 1.5 microns. This is small enough to see different types of blood cells. To obtain a good image, the researchers had to use digital image processing software to correct for distortion caused by the ball lenses. The images are not as sharp as those obtained with commercially available lab microscopes, but they can be of use where regular microscopes are not available

Basically, there is a combination of finding the right economical lens, and developing software to work with the image. The aim, of course, in underdeveloped countries is the diagnosis of infectious diseases, TB, malaria, and other microbes.


Above , in the top row, are images of pollen seen under a normal microscope.  Below are Smartphone images.  This is included, not only for teaching purposes, but because it is beautiful and colorful, ane even doctors appreciate that.

The miraculous thing about smartphones and the use of the microphone, is that is shows the unlimited, fantastic potential of using portable computers for use in the field, in uses which will be tremendously exiciting, and useful in the healthcare field throughout the world.

See this article which UCLA has taken the microscope one step further to be a flow cytometer, and a fluorescent microscope.


cellscope closeup

Cellscope takes a regular cell phone and changes it into a small, high-resolution, handheld microscope that can diagnose disease on the spot. or send elsewhere wirelessly to clinical centers for remote diagnosis and treatment. The “Cellscope,” which came out of an optics-class project at the University of California, Berkeley,  with Dr. Daniel Fletcher, Dr. Erik Douglas and Dr. Wilbur Lam. Cellscope was also one of the startups chosen to be a part of mHealth incubator Rock Health’s first class of 2011 startups.
Dr. Fletcher says that the Cellscope could identify and track diseases like tuberculosis (TB) and malaria in developing countries with limited access to health care, or in rural areas of the U.S.

The attatchment  to the iPhone-works just like a traditional microscope as it, in TB diagnosis, focuses on  spit samples on a microscope slide. To detect TB, for example, a spit sample is infused with an inexpensive dye called auramine. An “excitation” wavelength is emitted by the light source–a blue light-emitting diode (LED) on the opposite end of the device from the cell phone–and absorbed by the auramine dye in the spit sample, which fluoresces green to illuminate TB bacteria. Then automated software can count the green bacteria for a diagnosis in real time, or the image can be transmitted via cell network to a separate facility where doctors can analyze it and respond.  This would have an enormous impact if utilized in developing countries where TB is a problem.  And, it would be low cost solution.


Microskia mobile phone microscope

Microskia, a startup out of UCLA, is a $10 1.5-ounce microscope peripheral created out of off-the-shelf components that is intended for developing nations. The invention won numerous awards from foundations and the NSF, which helped fund trials for the device in Africa last year.


The latest development in the field of Smartphone Microscopes is the awesome SKYLIGHT, which is attatching the iPhone to an existing microscope through an adaptor, and increases the power and versatitlity of the existing microscope exponentially. So, you see, the power of the iPhone is being leveraged to power existing technology. In addition, it allows for photos of the image, as well as videos, so it will be a great teaching tool, and explode the world of microscope teaching, and bring this type of teaching to classroom, that heretherefore, could not afford such expensive microscope add-ons.  In addition, it allows to send the image/video across the world to whoever can help read the slide

So, essentially, the Smartphone not onlywill bring microscopes to areas that are underserved, but it will also allow an open source reading of any image seen! Another industry to be affected, optics and microsopes!


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  1. iPhone Microscope Android Samsung Smartphone Adaptor App
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