Young Scientists

Doing experimental science in Africa : how to ? - 13. François Piuzzi: 3D printed microscopes

An open source microscope presented two years ago was recently used by a Cameroonian doctor to analyze cellular samples.

"Some examples. You have here a microscope with the colours of Ikea but it is not made in Sweden. It was developed in the physics department of the University of Cambridge, by young people who wanted to make a microscope with 50 € at the most, because there is a webcam in it or a Raspberry. It is totally 3D printed. There are no moving parts, everything is based on the flexibility of the plastic. But you have to be well aware to design it because you have to know how a 3D printer works. On the side, there is the optical diagram.

There's a story there. It has been published in the Review of Scientifics Instruments in 2016. And two weeks ago, in the newspaper Le Monde - Afrique, there was an article about a young Cameroonian physician who used this microscope to make images of cervical smears that he then sent to the head city. Then the doctors can look at the images and decide whether it is pathological or not. This is the first example I see of using an open source instrument directly in Africa. Two years is not a lot.

Then, on the side, there is another microscope that is supplied with a series of LEDs at different wavelengths. This allows multi-spectral analysis in both diffusion and refraction. And thanks to this multi-spectral analysis, red blood cells that are affected by malaria can be detected.

So it makes instruments that are very inexpensive, although you still have to build them.

Below, you have an instrument for education that is fully printed in 3D as well. A Bolivian colleague made it. It allows to scatter the light: it is a small spectrometer and it can be attached to a smartphone and therefore it allows the analysis of light.

The last graph shows the growth of the number of articles about open source hardware. There is a huge growth.

It depends on the country: many of these articles are published in the United States, some in Europe, very few in France, because France is a little elitist and is not interested in this kind of thing. But there are many young Europeans who are interested, and they have launched an organization called GOSH for Global Open Science Hardware. I advise you to visit their website."


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