Over the last two decades, microscopy has seen unprecedented advances in speed and resolution. However, cellular structures are essentially three-dimensional, and conventional super-resolution techniques often lack the necessary resolution in all three directions to capture details at a nan ... more
High-resolution microscope built from LEGO and bits of phone
Research shows constructing microscope improves children’s understanding - enlightening, educational and fun
Microscopy is an essential tool in many fields of science and medicine. However, many groups have limited access to this technology due to its cost and fragility. Now, researchers from the Universities of Göttingen and Münster have succeeded in building a high-resolution microscope using nothing more than children’s plastic building bricks and affordable parts from a mobile phone. They then went on to show that children aged 9-13 had significantly increased understanding of microscopy after constructing and working with the LEGO® microscope. Their results were published in The Biophysicist.
The researchers designed a fully functional, high-resolution microscope with capabilities close to a modern research microscope. Apart from the optics, all parts were from the toy brick system. The team realized that the lenses in modern smartphone cameras, which cost around €4 each, are of such high quality that they can make it possible to resolve even individual cells. The scientists produced instructions for building the microscope as well as a step-by-step tutorial to guide people through the construction process whilst learning about the relevant optical characteristics of a microscope. The researchers measured children’s understanding through questionnaires given to a group of 9-13 year olds. The researchers found that children given the parts and plans to construct the microscope themselves significantly increased their knowledge of microscopy. For this particular study, the researchers, whose day-to-day research focusses on fundamental biophysical processes, benefitted from the input and enthusiasm of their 10-year-old co-author.
“An understanding of science is crucial for decision-making and brings many benefits in everyday life, such as problem-solving and creativity,” says Professor Timo Betz, University of Göttingen. “Yet we find that many people, even politicians, feel excluded or do not have the opportunities to engage in scientific or critical thinking. We wanted to find a way to nurture natural curiosity, help people grasp fundamental principles and see the potential of science.” The researchers stayed in contact with the children and monitored their progress: after they had constructed the main parts, they discovered that the lenses can act as magnifying glasses. After exploring this, and realizing that a good light source was important, they initially found it tricky to align two magnifying glasses. However, once they had achieved this, the lenses generated tremendous magnification. This enabled the children to literally “play” with the microscope: make their own adaptations; explore how the magnification works; and discover the exciting world of the micro-cosmos for themselves.
“We hope that this modular microscope will be used in classrooms and homes all over the world to excite and inspire children about science,” continues Betz. “We have shown that scientific research does not need to be separate from everyday life. It can be enlightening, educational and fun!”
X-rays make it possible to explore inside human bodies or peer inside objects. The technology used to illuminating the detail in microscopically small structures is the same as that used in familiar situations – such as medical imaging at a clinic or luggage control at the airport. X-ray mi ... more
Using DESY's X-ray lightsource PETRA III, an interdisciplinary research team led by the University of Göttingen and Hannover Medical School (MHH) has detected significant changes in the heart muscle tissue of people who died from Covid-19. Damage to lung tissue has been the research focus i ... more
Processes and structures within the body that are normally hidden from the eye can be made visible through medical imaging. Scientists use imaging to investigate the complex functions of cells and organs and search for ways to better detect and treat diseases. In everyday medical practice, ... more
Understanding all processes and reactions inside the lithium-ion battery in detail is essential for its further development. Especially interphases, which strongly influence the performance, safety and service life of energy storage systems, are still insufficiently investigated. They are p ... more
The brain holds numerous unsolved medical mysteries. Only a few years ago it was discovered that the outer layer of the meninges is interlaced with lymphatic vessels. As these vessels are known to transport immune cells – the white blood cells – this finding has increasingly brought into fo ... more
- 1Nano-sensor detects pesticides on fruit in minutes
- 2Most powerful dual-comb spectrometer developed
- 3AI identifies cancer cells
- 4On-site food freshness testing
- 5Lew lab sheds new light on cell membranes
- 6Inspiration for the laboratory of tomorrow
- 7‘E-nose’ sniffs out mixtures of volatile organic compounds
- 8Why are neuron axons long and spindly?
- 9High-speed imaging of microchips
- 10A free AI tool to quickly determine which protein labeling strategy works best for molecular interaction measurements