iPhone 5 cameraSource: Apple

What you need to know

  • Scientists at the University of Göttingen and Münster University are building cheap microscopes out of old iPhones.
  • Old iPhone 5 cameras and LEGO are being turned into inexpensive tools to avoid costly alternatives.

Scientists at the University of Göttingen and Münster University are using old iPhone 5 cameras and LEGO to build cheap high-resolution microscopes in place of expensive lab equipment.

According to a report by The Register, the scientists involved found that costly apparatus was causing people to avoid getting involved in science. They wanted to find a way to combat that – and a new Frankenstein's monster of a device was born.

As well as the Lego bricks, which form the bulk of the build, the project needed high-quality optical lenses. Two of these – a pair of acrylic ocular lenses combined with transparent tape into a single unit, and a glass low-magnification objective – are readily available. The high-magnification objective comes from somewhere else: recycled smartphones.

That high-magnification objective comes in the form of an iPhone 5 camera lens, apparently bought on eBay for a couple of dollars each. The team notes that the iPhone 5 camera models cost between €2 and €4, or $2.40-4.80.

After removing "all the fancy electronics" that aren't needed, the lens is put into its new home and a microscope is born. Now anyone can buy the parts needed – and use the guide the scientists have created – to build a microscope of their own. The guide is available in English, German, Dutch, and Spanish currently but the team says they welcome contributions that could make it available in other languages as well.

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Anyone wanting to have a go at building their own microscope can find the instructions on GitHub today. Just don't go taking that new iPhone 12 Pro apart to borrow its camera lens, OK?

These are the best iPhone deals available today, but I'd still suggest heading to eBay if you want to take an iPhone apart!