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Microscopes

Researchers at the University of Sheffield have created what sounds impossible - even nonsensical: an experimental electron microscope without lenses that not only works, but is orders of magnitude more powerful than current models. By means of a new form of mathematical analysis, scientists can take the meaningless patterns of dots and circles created by the lens-less microscope and create images that are of high resolution and contrast and, potentially, up to 100 times greater magnification. Read More
Soon, you may never have to play Russian roulette with potato salad again. Instead of just hoping that E. coli bacteria aren't present in your foods or drinks, you could instead use your mobile phone to find out for sure. That phone would have to be equipped with a bacteria-detecting scanner, which researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science recently created - in a prototype version, for now. Read More
Some day, you may have a microscope on your smartphone camera that's as powerful as a scanning electron microscope. If you do, it will likely be thanks to research presently being conducted by Durdu Guney, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Technological University. He is working on creating a metamaterial-based "superlens" - a long sought-after optically-perfect lens, that could use visible light to image objects as small as 100 nanometers across. Read More
A team from the University of California at Davis has developed an affordable way to give the iPhone surprisingly capable chemical detection and imaging powers. We've reported on cellphone microscopes before, but this version claims to be simpler in concept and less expensive, plus it adds spectroscopy to its list of abilities Read More
Laboratory technicians, in many different fields of research, spend a lot of time preparing and analyzing cell cultures. The process involves putting cells in a petri dish, adding nutrients, checking on cell growth, and then transferring cells to a separate container once sufficient colonies have been established. In an effort to streamline the laboratory workload, however, German research group Fraunhofer has now created an automated system that performs all of those tasks with no human intervention. Read More
When it comes to laboratory equipment, it doesn’t get much more basic than the humble petri dish. Aside from moving from glass to plastic and the addition of rings on their lids and bases that allows them to be stacked, the petri dish has remained largely unchanged since its invention by German bacteriologist Julius Richard Petri and his assistant Robert Koch in the late 1800s. Now researchers at the California Institute of technology (Caltech) have dragged the petri dish into the 21st Century by incorporating an image sensor like those found in mobile phone cameras that does away with the need for bulky microscopes. Read More
While financial contributions are certainly a great help to health care practitioners in developing nations, one of the things that they really need is rugged, portable, low-cost medical equipment that is compatible with an often-limited local infrastructure. Several such devices are currently under development, such as a battery-powered surgical lamp, a salad-spinner-based centrifuge, and a baby-warmer that utilizes wax. UCLA is now working on another appropriate technology in the form of a small, inexpensive microscope that uses holograms instead of lenses to image what can't be seen by the human eye. Read More
Typically, if someone wishes to obtain three-dimensional images of micrometer-scale objects, they need to use a device such as a confocal microscope or a white-light interferometer. Such equipment is big, expensive, and often has to be mounted on a vibration-free table. Even then, it can take up to a few hours to get the finished images. Scientists at MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, however, have created a system that can obtain the same kind of images almost instantly, using a soda can-sized sensor and a sheet of rubber. It’s called GelSight. Read More
When trying to see objects that are too small for optical microscopes to image, scientists often turn to scanning probe microscopes. Instead of a lens, these instruments have a tiny suspended tip, that moves up and down as it makes contact with the object’s surface. An image, which can reveal details as small as one millionth of a millimeter, is obtained by scanning that probe back and forth across the object. Scientists from Germany’s Universitaet Tübingen have now taken scanning probe microscopy a step farther, by creating a probe made not from a solid material, but from a gas of atoms – this “quantum tip” is said to increase the resolution of images beyond what has so far been possible. Read More
With conventional microscopy, if a scientist wishes to obtain a high-resolution image of a relatively broad area, they typically have to use a microscope that scans across that area in a grid pattern, recording many images one point at a time. Those images are then joined together to form one complete picture. Such systems take a long time to perform a scan, so both the microscope and the subject must be held still while it's taking place. Researchers from Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering, however, have created a thin, handheld microscope that can reportedly obtain similar-quality images in less than one second. Read More
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