Compact lens-less digital microscope – evaluation kit available

February 11, 2016 // By Graham Prophet
EDN Europe first reported on the work on lens-free microscopy at Belgian research centre imec in 2014. Now, the technique has been packaged into a demonstration and evaluation kit.

Able to provide a large field-of-view and live imaging at micrometer resolution, imec’s on-chip lens-free microscope can be integrated into life sciences and biotech tools, targeting multiple applications such as label-free cell monitoring, automated cell culturing, or automated high-throughput microscopy. The principle behind lens-free imaging is based on in-line holography capturing the interference between an illuminating wavefront and the diffraction of an object. Selection of field of view; of magnification; and of plane of focus; all become software operations.

 

Compared to conventional optical microscopes, lens-free digital microscopy removes the need for expensive and bulky optical lens components to acquire and visualise microscopy images. In a lens-free digital microscope, images are captured on a CMOS image sensor, and digitally reconstructed using software. Imec’s lens-free microscope features a comparable micrometer-scale accuracy as traditional optical microscopes, while being much smaller and less expensive; the microscope captures a larger field-of-view and enables a full-resolution selection to be achieved across a much wider field in one shot, enabling shorter sample processing times. The lens-free microscope paves the way to new applications with living cells and tissues.

“This microscope will enable an abundance of applications, where traditional microscopes are just not applicable,” stated Andy Lambrechts, program manager of integrated vision solutions at imec. “Recently, we demonstrated its ability to be integrated into a bio-incubator in stem-cell research for cell culture monitoring, and for cardio-toxicity testing, where the microscope monitored contractions of cardiac tissue in response to drugs. With impressive results our team has branched out even further and is exploring its ability measure fabrication tolerances and stress in our in-house developed neural probe chips, and for defect inspection of thin-film displays.”

“Imec’s lens free imaging solution is now available as a full, ready-to-use demo kit evaluation system including a light source, image sensor, control and read-out electronics and a software interface,” stated Jerome Baron, business development manager of integrated vision systems at imec. “Companies can