Callan Phan (Dr Tri Phan's son) making a DIY droplet lens
08 August 2014
Dr Tri Phan from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and Dr Steve Lee from Australian National University (ANU) have been jointly nominated as finalists for the 2014 ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology.
The pair developed a simple and cheap way of making a high-powered lens that can transform a smart phone into a high-resolution microscope.
The concept behind the ‘DIY Droplet Lens’ is so simple that even a child can make one at home (watch video). The lenses are formed using droplets of the polymer used to make soft contact lenses, then baking them upside down in an oven.
Costing less than a cent, the lenses promise a revolution in science and medicine in developing countries and remote areas.
Dr Lee and his team worked with Dr Phan to design a lightweight 3D-printable frame to hold the lens, along with a couple of miniature LED lights for illumination, and a coin battery.
The technology taps into the current citizen science revolution, which is rapidly transforming owners of smart phones into potential scientists. There are also exciting possibilities for remote medical diagnosis.
The tiny microscope has a wide range of potential uses, particularly if coupled with the right smartphone apps.
“This is a whole new era of miniaturisation and portability - image analysis software could instantly transform most smartphones into sophisticated mobile laboratories,” said Dr Phan.
“I am most able to see the potential for this device in the practice of medicine, although I am sure specialists in other fields will immediately see its value for them.”
Presented annually by the Australian Museum, the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes reward excellence in the fields of research & innovation, leadership, science communication & journalism and school science.
Winners of this year’s prizes will be announced at an Award Dinner on Wednesday 10 September at Sydney Town Hall.