UCLA engineer makes lensless microscope even tinier for resource-limited settings

April 30, 2010
Los Angeles, CA--UCLA engineer Aydogan Ozcan created a miniature lensless microscope--the world's smallest and lightest for telemedicine applications--based on his LUCAS technology.

Los Angeles, CA--Aydogan Ozcan, whose invention of a novel lensless imaging technology called LUCAS for use in telemedicine could radically transform global health care, has taken his work a step further--or tinier: The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) engineer has created a miniature microscope, the world's smallest and lightest for telemedicine applications. See also "Miniature microscopy serves emerging applications".

The miniature microscope, unveiled in a paper published online in the journal Lab on a Chip, builds on imaging technology known as LUCAS (Lensless Ultra-wide-field Cell Monitoring Array) platform based on Shadow imaging, which was developed by Ozcan, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and a researcher at UCLA's California NanoSystems Institute.

Instead of using a lens to magnify objects, LUCAS generates holographic images of microparticles or cells by employing a light-emitting diode (LED) to illuminate the objects and a digital sensor array to capture their images. The technology can be used to image blood samples or other fluids, even in Third World countries.

"This is a very capable and yet cost-effective microscope, shrunk into a very small package," Ozcan said. "Our goal with this project was to develop a device that can be used to improve health outcomes in resource-limited settings."

The lensless microscope, in addition to being far more compact and lightweight than conventional microscopes (weighing only 46 grams), also obviates the need for trained technicians to analyze the images produced--images are analyzed by computer so that results are available instantaneously. The only external attachments necessary are a USB connection to a smart-phone, PDA or computer, which supplies the microscope with power and allows images to be uploaded for conversion into results and then sent to a hospital.

Samples are loaded using a small chip that can be filled with saliva or a blood smear for health monitoring. With blood smears, the lensless microscope is capable of accurately identifying cells and particles, including red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. The technology has the potential to help monitor diseases like malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis in areas where there are great distances between people in need of health care and the facilities capable of providing it, Ozcan said. It can even be used to test water quality in the field following a disaster like a hurricane or earthquake.

For the full story, go to http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/world-s-smallest-microscope-invented-156971.aspx.

--Posted by Gail Overton; [email protected]; www.laserfocusworld.com.

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