Introducing the ‘Glowscope’: A Low-Cost Alternative to Fluorescence Microscopes

Researchers from Winona State University recently unveiled a creative new DIY fluorescence microscope accessory they call the “glowscope”—a low-cost alternative to the traditional fluorescence microscopes that usually cost thousands of dollars. The glowscope is a clip-on plexiglass and plywood frame attachment for phones and tablets that utilizes a recreational LED flashlight and theater stage lighting filters to allow visualization of fluorescent light emitted by specimens.[0]

In tests, the glowscope was used to image live zebrafish embryos measuring two to three millimeters long, which were expressing fluorescent proteins in either the spinal cord, cardiac tissue, or hindbrain.[1] With the clip-on lens, the glowscope provided approximately five-fold magnification and was capable of imaging green and red fluorescent tissues with up to ten micrometer resolution—sufficient to view individual pigment cells.[0]

The authors demonstrated that the glowscope could also be used for measuring heart rates of embryos and, after enhancing the clarity of videos recorded using free software, the movements of individual heart chambers.[0] Researchers are of the opinion that the glowscope, due to its simple assembly and low costs, has the potential of proving to be an advantageous resource to K-12 schools that do not have the budget to acquire sophisticated science equipment.

The materials for a glowscope cost between US $30 and $50, making them an affordable option for students to study anatomy, behavior, physiology, development, and genetic inheritance in small organisms expressing fluorescent proteins, which could be obtained from laboratories.[0] Several glowscopes and smartphones could also be used simultaneously to acquire video data in research labs that do not have access to multiple fluorescence microscopes.[1]

Overall, the glowscope is an innovative tool for scientists and educators alike that offers a low-cost solution for viewing fluorescent specimens. With the potential to revolutionize the way scientists and students alike observe and understand fluorescent organisms, the glowscope could be a game-changer for science education and research.

0. “Low-cost smartphone fluorescence microscope developed”, 9 Mar. 2023,

1. “Scientists turned a smartphone into an affordable microscope” Popular Science, 9 Mar. 2023,

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