Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


A light microscope made only with consumer electronic products


Light microscopes based on scattering, reflection and absorption, or a combination of these, have been a key enabling technology for the study of objects invisible to our eyes, especially in the field of biology. Many improvements have been made in the past to create state-of-the-art techniques capable of achieving unprecedented resolution and sensitivity albeit their cost, which drastically increases with quality and versatility, making them quite unavailable for general applications.

Holographic, phase contrast or differential interference contrast (DIC) miscroscopes have been implemented especially for making "visible", otherwise "invisible", transparent objects, opening a new pathway towards the study and characterization of relevant structures such as biological cells or protein layers. The DIC microscope invented by Carl Zeiss several decades ago is one of the most popular in this field.

A large field of view interferometric microscope can detect single protein layers.

Credit: ICFO

Now, even though these techniques have offered high sensitivity and resolution, they have shown to be severely limited as far as field-of-view (FOV) and depth-of-field (DOF), a major drawback and great limitation when it comes to large samples, where a scanning method is mandatory and time consuming. The trade-off will always be there: when trying to improve one parameter with a specific combination of lenses, the other will deteriorate.

Therefore, in recent years, research has been focused on developing microscopes without optical lenses or objectives that could offer unprecedented FOV while maintaining fair sensitivity and resolution.

In a paper published in Science Advances, ICFO researchers Roland Terborg, Josselin Pello, Ilaria Mannelli, UPC Prof. at ICFO Juan P. Torres and ICREA Prof. at ICFO Valerio Pruneri, have built a novel low-cost, compact on-chip microscope, made with consumer electronic products, capable of simultaneously measuring nanometer-thick changes over a large volume (0.5cm^3) in transparent objects such as glass.

The researchers have developed a large FOV interferometric on-chip lens free microscope (LIM) based on a novel design with a very high axial sensitivity and DOF, applying a technique adequate to be used in microarray platforms for the detection of proteins without the need of labels.

As Roland Terborg comments, "The challenge of developing a lens-free microscope to detect single protein layers (less than 1nm of optical path difference) seemed rather difficult at the beginning. But as we started to develop the device, everything seemed to fit in very well surpassing our expectations! Instead of having to use very expensive components, we discovered that we could actually use consumer end products without a significant decrease in its sensitivity".

By using collimated polarized light, the team of scientists was able to reconstruct the image by shining light through the transparent sample to observe and analyze the phase shift and interference intensity pattern, a technique known as phase-shifting interferometry (PSI). As UPC Prof at ICFO Juan P. Torres states, "any slight refractive index change introduced by an impurity in the sample is translated into a phase difference and thus an intensity variation in the pattern, showing the contours and therefore size of the irregularity".

As ICREA Prof. at ICFO Valerio Pruneri comments "the device means a major step forward for light microscopy techniques, especially for microarray platforms since it could definitely be used as a point-of-care tool in the diagnosis and treatment of major diseases such as Sepsis, a critical area where fast and accurate results can translate into life changing health outcomes for individuals. We are also thrilled by the fact that this will be part of the Sixsenso spin-off project portfolio including similar devices for detection of particulates and micro-organisms".

The new device has proven to be low-cost, compact, and extremely suitable for point-of-care applications, making it an ideal device to be fully integrated in cameras of smart phones or tablets and used for detecting and scanning of transparent objects or surfaces.



"Ultrasensitive interferometric on-chip microscopy of transparent objects" R. A. Terborg, J. Pello, I. Mannelli, J. P. Torres, V. Pruneri, Sci. Adv., Science Advances, 2016, Vol. 2, no. 6, e1600077, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600077

Media Contact

Alina Hirschmann

Alina Hirschmann | EurekAlert!

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht From ancient fossils to future cars
21.10.2016 | University of California - Riverside

nachricht Study explains strength gap between graphene, carbon fiber
20.10.2016 | Rice University

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>