Take a close look at the images above. They look like fairly typical (and fairly awesome) photos taken with a microscope, except...they were taken with an iPhone. The highly detailed snaps are magnified an impressive 350 times thanks to a recently created microscopic lens, and it was all done for around $50.
The low-cost makeshift microscope comes courtesey of researchers at University of California, Davis, and it puts a whole range of crazy iPhone accessories, including this sizeable add-on, to shame.
Creating the smartphone-friendly microscope is a ridiculously straightforward process. The UC Davis team took a cheap 1mm ball lens, put it on a rubber sheet, and simply mounted it atop an iPhone's camera (this trick should work with just about any smartphone camera, though).
The UC Davis report details that the spherical shape of the aforementioned ball lens makes the above images possible. The positioning of the mounted lens creates a small in-focus area, which results in the magnified photo. A little bit of post-processing work is applied to clean up the image.
General awesomeness aside, this sort of technology could be useful for doctors working in developing countriesm due to, as the researchers put it, the "growing demand for high-quality health care in regions of the world where medical infrastructure is below levels found in developed countries." It doesn't take a scientist to see how these low-cost ad-hoc microscopes would be helpful, especially when compared to pricey professional microscopes.
You can read the full peer-reviewed paper on the PLoS One Website.
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This story, "Researchers Turn iPhone Into 350x Microscope on the Cheap" was originally published by PCWorld.