Dr Richard Bowman from the Department of Physics, working with collaborators at the University of Cambridge and Tanzanian “digital blacksmiths” STICLab, wants to create much cheaper, open-source devices such as microscopes which can be used for disease diagnosis and scientific research.
The 3-year project, funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund, is testing and refining a prototype general purpose optical microscope made from mass produced lenses, a Raspberry Pi mini-computer and a 3D-printed plastic frame.
The team’s prototype can be cheaply and quickly manufactured on location without large start-up costs.
The team will also be testing the microscope’s potential for automation – programming the microscopes to do more work automatically would free up the time of medics and researchers to do other things until a later stage, and improve consistency.
Another potential advantage is that digitally storing the images of tested samples to keep a record would allow them to be revisited for second opinions, training or further scientific research, which presently isn’t possible after samples are destroyed.