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An App for That, Too

A system developed by researchers at the University of California, Davis, couples a small lens and a cell phone camera to create a camera that can discern the shapes of cells in blood, reports Technology Review's Stephen Cass. The modified camera would allow scientists in the field to take picture of blood samples, and then send the micrographs to doctors for diagnosis, Cass adds. This isn't the first time microscopes have been attached to cell phones, but the Davis researchers' design is inexpensive. "It did this by using a very simple lens that is made from a single ball of glass about one millimeter in diameter and held in position in front of the camera with a small piece of rubber," Cass says. "That small size results in a high curvature that provides good magnification." And because a cell phone camera uses a lens with a short focal length, he adds, it's compatible with a small ball lens. The Davis team also created software to get around any distortions in the photos by taking multiple shots the same sample, taken from different angles, and combining them into a larger, undistorted image. The system was developed using an iPhone with a five megapixel camera, but it could be adapted to cheaper phones that have one or two megapixel cameras, which are more likely to be found in poor countries where field workers would need to use them, Cass says.