August 27, 2012

Microscope Device Snaps Images 100 Frames Per Second

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

A new type of device for microscopes has been developed, capable of creating a high-resolution image 100 times faster than regular equipment.

Scientists at the University of Leicester have addressed the need for a rapid-scanning microscope, and published their findings in the journal PLoS ONE.

The new device bolts onto a regular microscope, and then projects light through a system of mirrors on to the microscopic sample.

Then, the microscope device projects patterns of illumination onto the specimens, and only light that is in the plane of focus returns along the same path and is reflected by the mirror onto a camera to form an image.

Programming the mirror device allows the illumination pattern to be adjusted easily for different types of specimens and conditions, giving ease of use and flexibility.

The device also takes out unwanted light that comes from regions of the specimen that are out of focus, helping to improve the image quality.

Images can be scanned onto a computer at about 100 frames per second, showing biological processes like cell activity at higher speeds than regular microscopes.

"We built the device as there is a 'need for speed'," Professor Nick Hartell, of the University's Department of Cell Physiology and Pharmacology, said in a press release. "I found out about this technology from its use in projectors and realized that it could be used to develop a microscope."

The team's microscope has no moving parts, and its digital micro mirror allows them to alter the size and spacing of mirrors in order to choose the quality of the image and adapt different imaging conditions.

The scientists believe this technology will help address the needs of the scientific field, including biomedical research and neuroscience.

"Modern biological research and modern neuroscience, depends upon the development of new technologies that allow the optical detection of biological events as they occur," Hartell said. "Many biological events take place in the millisecond time scale and so there is a great need for new methods of detecting events at high speed and at high resolution."

It took three years to develop the device and funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

"We are very excited because we have been able to go from a concept, to a working prototype that is useful for my research into neuroscience," Hartell said in the release. "There is a good chance that we will be able to make a product and see that being used in labs in the UK and worldwide."

Neil Radford from the University's Enterprise and Business Development Office said that Hartell is working closely with his department to commercialize the technology.