Lens-free smartphone microscope built from $1.50 chip

As UCLA researchers test a low-cost, lens-free microscope, a team of scientists at nearby California Institute of Technology have developed a similar device from a $1.50 digital camera sensor that can diagnose diseases in the field by connecting to a lab or medical database by smartphone or PDA, according to MIT Technology Review.

"The best current way to diagnose malaria is for a skilled technician to examine blood samples using a conventional optical microscope. But this is impractical in parts of the world where malaria is common," the magazine reports in language even someone as scientifically challenged as a FierceMobileHealthcare editor can understand. "A simple lens-free imaging device connected to a smartphone or a PDA could automatically diagnose disease. A lensless microscope could also be used for rapid cancer or drug screening, with dozens or hundreds of microscopes working simultaneously."

What sets the Caltech device apart from other versions is its simplicity, thanks to a new software algorithm. Tiny channels called microfluidics guide specimens across the camera chip, which takes multiple images as the sample passes the sensor, with no need for external parts such as a pinhole aperture or electrokinetic drive to move samples across the sensor.

To read up on some of the more technical aspects of this device:
- take a look at this MIT Technology Review article