Cambridge University spinoff WaterScope recently launched a low-cost, 3D- printed microscope called “OpenFlexure” for the developing world. The open source device, which runs on a Raspberry Pi 3, can impressively quantify bacterial contamination within two hours right on-site — 10 times quicker than current technology.
OpenFlexure consists of a water sampling kit, a Pi Camera module, and Raspbian Linux image processing software. Thanks to its flexure-based design, OpenFlexure’s motion is free from friction and vibration, and achieves sub-micron precision and a range of 8mm.
The images from the camera can then be processed by the Pi and transmitted wirelessly to a smartphone, tablet, or PC. Shortly after initial testing, the results can also be uploaded to a server along with GPS coordinates.
According to WaterScope, OpenFlexure is “smaller, lighter, and cheaper than today’s testing kits, which will allow more locations to be monitored more frequently and more easily. Once fully developed, it will be the fastest bacterial test kit available.”
The team created the microscope with hopes of reducing the 2.2 million deaths per year from waterborne diseases linked to bacteria such as cholera, dysentery, and typhoid fever. Globally, one in 10 people lack access to safe drinking water, in part due to the challenges involved in testing quality. OpenFlexure is looking to change that through rapid examination of pathogens like E. coli, Listeria, Legionella and pathogenic E. coli 0157.