Lens-less microscope produces sharp 3-D images

An optical imaging system small enough to fit onto opto-electronic chip provides variety of benefits.

Last Updated: Apr 25, 2011, 16:36 PM IST

Washington: A lens-less microscope small enough to sit on the palm of your hand has enough punch to create 3D images of miniscule samples.

The technique demonstrates a lens-free optical tomographic imaging on a chip for the first time, capable of producing high-resolution 3-D images of large volumes of microscopic objects.

"This research clearly shows the potential of lens-free computational microscopy," said Aydogan Ozcan, senior study author and associate professor of electrical engineering at University of California-Los Angeles School of Engineering and Applied Science.

"Wonderful progress has been made in recent years to miniaturize life-sciences tools with microfluidic and lab-on-a-chip technologies, but until now optical microscopy has not kept pace with the miniaturisation trend," the journal proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.

An optical imaging system small enough to fit onto an opto-electronic chip provides a variety of benefits, according to a California statement.

Because of the automation involved in on-chip systems, scientific work could be sped up significantly, which might have a great impact in the fields of cell and developmental biology.

Besides, the small size not only has great potential for miniaturising systems but also leads to cost savings on equipment.

The optical microscope, invented more than 400 years ago, has tended to grow larger and more complex as it has been modified to view ever-smaller objects with better resolution.

The system takes advantage of the fact that organic structures, such as cells, are partially transparent. So by shining a light on a sample of cells, the shadows created reveal not only the cells` outlines but details about their sub-cellular structures as well.