Flatscope Lens-Free Fluorescent Microscope to Assist in Deep Body Imaging

Researchers from Rice University developed a thin fluorescent microscope called as FlatScope, which can image details at micrometer scale while focusing on a volume of a few cubic millimeters

The study was published in Science Advances in March 2018. The novel lens-free microscope is small enough to sit on a fingertip and capable of micrometer resolution over a volume of several cubic millimeters. FlatScope reduces the need of conventional microscopes in which arrays of lenses can either gather less light from a large field of view or gather more light from a smaller field. The researchers claim that FlatScope can be potentially used as implantable endoscope and a large-area imager or a flexible microscope.

The a microscope doesn’t use any lenses due to which it can be placed at the tips of endoscopes for long term monitoring of brain activity.  Moreover, the size of the field view can be increased by increasing the size of the sensor. The sensor is a conventional complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) detector. “In the case of a megapixel camera, that computational problem requires a matrix of a million times a million elements,” said Robinson, researcher involved in study. “It’s an incredibly big matrix. But because we break it down through this pattern of rows and columns, our matrix is just 1 million elements.”

The device operates on amplitude mask, which allows production of high quality images. The sensor captures the light that comes through the mask to develop image. For final image, the device uses algorithm that records the amplitude mask and converts the imaging data into a high resolution picture. It has ability to produce a focused image from distances, which can help in developing 3D movies of objects within a volume of a few cubic millimeters. However, researchers believe that further research is required for using FlatScope in bright-field, dark-field, and reflected-light microscopy.

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