Mobile Computing

UCLA Researchers Develop Device To Turn Smartphones into Fluorescence Microscopes

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles have developed a small, lightweight device that allows users to turn a smartphone into a fluorescence microscope capable of imaging objects 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

The optical device is 3D printed and "includes an attachment that creates a high-contrast, dark-field imaging set-up using an inexpensive external lens, thin-film interference filters, a miniature dovetail stage and a laser diode that excites the fluorescently labeled DNA molecules" for the demonstration. An app connects the phone to the university's servers to measure the molecules, which are labeled and stretched on disposable chips that fit the device. The results can be seen on both the smartphone and external computers connected to the UCLA servers.

The device was developed by team led by Aydogan Ozcan, a professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering at the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and director of the California Nanosystems Institute.

"The ability to translate these and other existing microscopy and sensing techniques to field-portable, cost-effective and high-throughput instruments can make possible myriad new applications for point-of-care medicine and global health," said Ozcan, in a news release. Ozcan also suggested that the device could be useful for research and education in developing countries or institutions with limited resources.

The project, the results of which were published in ACS Nano, was funded by an Early Concept Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER) from the National Science Foundation.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at

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