Lego, how to build a high resolution microscope

A physicist and his son made the device entirely with bricks (except lenses and video camera) and published instructions to spread the use of a low-cost tool useful for teaching

Father and son play with Lego and then the idea: why not build a microscope with the iconic colored bricks? The result is described in a true article scientific published by the journal Biophysicist, complete with instructions for make it at home. The instrument, in fact, can be replicated by any kid, to a cost more than affordable.

Didactics and dissemination

Timo Betz, a physicist at the University of Göttingen and MĂĽnster (Germany), and his 10-year-old son took two days to realize the idea. Started like a game, the researcher, thanks also to the boy’s fine ideas to solve some technical problems, was able to grasp the potential applications: a kit for the realization independently of an microscope working e low price could be employed as teaching tool and of disclosure scientific, to help children understand optics better.

The whole Lego microscope

The microscope has a simple design: a Lego tower but with several optimization measures, such as the mechanism that allows a fine focus. The only parts that are not made with bricks, its creators specify, are obviously the lenses and the video camera, which have been recovered from old smartphones, to be precise from an iPhone 5 and a Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact. Between bricks for the structure and optical system are spent about a hundred euros. Quite affordable.

lego microscope

High resolution

While not – it goes without saying – a particularly sophisticated instrument, the performance of the Lego microscope are more than good, suitable precisely for the didactics and the approach to research. As we read in the article, the optical system consists of two aligned lenses: the first flips the image of the object and enlarges it, the second straightens and enlarges it further. From the tests conducted, it was found that the power of magnification of the microscope comes to 254x, with a resolution limit below one micron (i.e. to one thousandth of a millimeter).


The authors developed the instructions (available who) to build the Lego microscope, but to verify that it was really feasible in a simple way they asked some boys between 9 and 13 years old to devote time to it. They also thought of having them fill out a questionnaire both before and after building and playing with the microscope, to evaluate the experience and the acquisition of new skills.

Result? The realization of the Lego microscope has been confirmed by easy management and the boys proved to learn a lot more about optics after completing the tool and testing it. Some are also included in the kit basic experiments, including observing in real time the formation of salt crystals as the water evaporates from the solution or the movement of microscopic animals such as water fleas.

Categories:   Science