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article imageFlatScope: The world's tiniest, lightest microscope

By Tim Sandle     Mar 5, 2018 in Science
Researchers have developed a lens-free fluorescent microscope. Called the FlatScope, the device is the world's tiniest, lightest microscope designed for biological applications.
Scientists and engineers from Rice University have constructed the FlatScope fluorescent microscope. The optical device can capture three-dimensional data and produce images from anywhere within its field of vision. Importantly the research suggests that lenses are no longer requirement for some microscopes. Moreover, the thin fluorescent microscope is said to be superior to conventional models.
The new microscope is a wide-field microscope. This means the microscope permanently illuminates the whole sample; such an instrument can be distinguished from confocal microscopy where only one single focal spot is illuminated and recorded at a time. The new device is thinner than a credit card and small enough to sit on a fingertip. In terms of application, it is capable of micrometer resolution over a volume of several cubic moduces images of objects smaller than one micron within the field of vision.
One of the main applications of the device will be to assist medics, being used as an implantable endoscope, a large-area imager or a flexible microscope. According to lead researcher Professor Jacob Robinson: "I think of a microscope as something that allows you to image things on the micron scale. That means things that are smaller than the diameter of a human hair, like cells, parts of cells or the fine structure of fibers." His device does just that.
The new devices has been reported to the journal Science Advances in a research paper. The article is titled "Single-frame 3D fluorescence microscopy with ultraminiature lensless FlatScope."
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