Instead of having to transport that material back to the lab, wouldn't it be better if you could just take a microscope image of it with your smartphone, email that image off to a remote lab, then receive the analysis within just a few minutes while you were still on location? Thanks to a very inexpensive new phone attachment developed at the US Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), that could soon be possible.
The device consists of a 3D-printed plastic clip, which houses a small glass sphere. The spheres are easily purchased online, are worth about one cent each, and are commonly used in reflective airport runway markings.
Although scientists have experimented with using such spheres as microscope lenses for some time, most of the systems incorporating them have been awkward, provided a relatively low level of magnification, or were difficult to align with the imaging system.