DIY microscope could save labs thousands of euro in disease diagnosis

25 Nov 2014

PhD candidate Adam Lynch's microscope. Image via Adam Lynch

A hacked DIY microscope developed by a PhD student has fascinated research scientists who say his design can equal the process of current diagnosis of serious illnesses but at a fraction of the cost.

Adam Lynch from Brunel University London went about creating his own new, powerful inverted microscope with a range of material he had purchased online for a total of around stg£160 (€200), a fraction of the cost of similar microscopes used to analyse cell motility, which can cost as much as hundreds of thousands of euro.

Lynch had designed the microscope to allow him to work on his PhD topic, which is looking into how a snail’s immune system responds to chemical pollutants present in water which could significantly contribute to the transfer of Schistosome parasites from snails to humans.

According to, Lynch discovered the process of creating his hacked microscope after realising his relatively cheap USB microscope could be clamped upside down to create the same effect as the established and expensive models and subsequently added a further two microscopes to increase the device’s magnification.

‘Quite easy to make’

With Lynch believing he can produce the microscope for an even cheaper price, he explained setting it up involved a relatively simple process.

“It worked OK as I could sort of see cells, which are about 50 micrometres long, but the images weren’t fantastic,” he said.

“But people don’t realise that you can quite easily make a high-magnification microscope, it’s just a matter of getting a lens and the right angle of lighting, so when I turned off the lighting that came with the instrument and used external lights I found I could see the cells quite clearly,” he added.

“If money is no object you can do something better but money certainly is an object and really the only way we could get meaningful data without spending a disproportionate amount of time in the lab was this.”

Future plans for the microscope could see it given a casing and introduction to developing nations that would not be able to afford the much more expensive equipment.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic