Tiny device turns phone into microscope

Finnish researchers have built a tiny gadget that attaches to a camera phone and turns it into a high-resolution microscope – accurate to one hundredth of a millimeter.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland says the device will have applications in everything from healthcare to gaming, and should be released commercially next month in partnership with local company Keeploop; there’s no word yet on price.

The device works by combining images from the camera’s lens and a series of LEDs. A thin, magnetic microscope module is attached in front of the camera’s normal lens. A number of LEDs have been sunk into the outer edge of the lens, allowing objects to be illuminated from different angles.

This allows 3D topographic maps to be created, accurate to one hundredth of a millimeter. The camera’s field of view is 2 x 3 millimetres. Photos can be saved and sent as emails or texts in the usual way.

The team envisages it being used by nature-loving consumers, but it also has a number of commercial applications.

It could be used, for example, to read microcode in various logistics systems, for studying security markings, or for authenticating products as genuine as part of brand protection.

“The device also has uses in social media, and in community-based hybrid media where traditional forms of media are used in combination with each other,” says the team. “There are also several potential applications in the gaming world.”