Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Germany have designed a microscope that is shaped like a cell phone.
It is flat because of the small lenses that simultaneously scan an image, instead of a single lens that scans and then groups several images.
“Our ultrathin microscope consists of not just one but a multitude of tiny imaging channels, with lots of tiny lenses arrayed alongside one another. Each channel records a tiny segment of the object at the same size for a 1:1 image,” said Dr. Frank Wipperman, who managed the team.
Each segment is only 300 x 300 mm ² in size and can be assembled using a computer program that brings together images to form a complete picture of the studied object.
The team noted that the image generation system consists of three stacked glass plates with small lenses applied both to the top and bottom of each plate. With an image size of 36 x 24 mm ², you can catch objects the size of a matchbox in a single motion.
The microscope can record images with a resolution of up to 5 micrometers. The high speed at which images are recorded will eliminate the blur, even if the microscope doesn’t have a fixed support (for instances if the doctor hold s it in his hand).
The possible applications for this microscope are varied: from the discovery of skin cancer, using high-resolution images that will reveal the malignant skin cells, to verifying the authenticity of documents.
Researchers will present the prototype microscope at this month’s LASER World of PHOTONICS trade fair in Munich and the production of the device in large numbers may begin in a year or two.