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Microscopes

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
If you want to get a child interested in the sciences, just let them loose with a microscope. Proper stage microscopes can be pricey, however, and are somewhat tricky for youngsters to use. Fortunately, there are options like the Zoomy Handheld Digital Microscope – it's a simple device that plugs into the USB port of a PC or Mac, then feeds through illuminated, magnified images of whatever it's placed over. Read More
It's all very well and good that iPhones can give you directions, let you surf the web, and do about a thousand other things, but what if you want to get a close look at something really tiny? Well, the phone can't help you with that on its own, but it can if you equip it with the Mini Microscope for iPhone. Like the University of California, Davis' more clinical CellScope, it mounts over the lens of the phone's camera. Once in place, you can use it to inspect your thumb, get to know the insects in your neighborhood, or even to detect counterfeit currency. Read More
Researchers at the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) have collaborated with Finnish company Multitouch Ltd to create a giant touch and gesture controlled microscope. The Multitouch microscope uses a combination of web based microscopy and a 46-inch multitouch display to create what researcher Dr Johan Lundin calls "an iPad on steroids." A useful tool for interactive teaching and learning, the microscope allows users to zoom in or out with a two handed stretch or pinch gesture – all the way down to 1000x magnification. Read More
Engineers from Ohio State University have developed what they say is the world’s first microscope lens capable of obtaining three-dimensional images. While 3D microscopy has already been achieved, it has previously required the use of multiple lenses, or of a single camera that moves around the object being imaged. The new device, however, is just a single lens that sits in place on an existing microscope. Read More
In some cases, looking at a living cell under a microscope can cause it damage or worse, can kill it. Now, a new kind of microscope has been invented by researchers from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute that is able to non-invasively take a three dimensional look inside living cells with stunning results. The device uses a thin sheet of light like that used to scan supermarket bar codes and could help biologists to achieve their goal of understanding the rules that govern molecular processes within a cell. Read More
Scientists from the University of Manchester have announced the development of the world's most powerful optical microscope. Called the "microsphere nanoscope," the device captures non-diffracted near-field virtual images that are amplified via silica glass microspheres, which are tiny optically-transparent spherical particles. Those images are then relayed and further amplified by a standard optical microscope. The nanoscope reportedly allows users to see objects as small as 50 nanometers under normal lighting – this is 20 times smaller than what conventional optical microscopes can manage, and is in fact said to be beyond the theoretical limits of optical microscopy. Read More
An international team of scientists has obtained the world’s first single-shot images of intact viruses – a technology that could ultimately lead to moving video of molecules, viruses and live microbes. The team was also able to successfully utilize a new shortcut for determining the 3D structures of proteins. Both advances were achieved using the world’s first hard X-ray free-electron laser – the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) – which scientists hope could revolutionize the study of life. Read More
A common criticism of single-player video games is that they isolate their players, shutting them off from anything or anyone that exists in the real world. Well, that certainly can’t be said of the lab-based “biotic games” created by Stanford University physicist Ingmar Riedel-Kruse – while they may be fashioned after arcade classics, his games require players to manipulate living microorganisms in real time. If you want to “kick” a soccer ball into a net, for instance, you have to get an actual paramecium to do it for you. Read More
If you want to obtain moving images of high-speed molecular processes at an atomic scale, one of the best facilities in the world is the X-ray Free Electron Laser (X-FEL) at Stanford University. Should you wish to use it, however, you’ll have get on a waiting list, then bring your materials to its California home once it’s your turn. If you’re thinking of building your own, you’d better start saving now – Stanford’s laser reportedly cost several hundred million dollars to build, and the cost of a new European X-FEL has been set at one billion euro (US$1.3 billion). Researchers from the Netherlands’ Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), however, have recently announced the development of a tabletop “poor man’s X-FEL.” It performs some of the same key functions as the big laser, but costs under half a million euro (US$656,006). Read More
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