The “sexy gadget” bug must have bitten a new microscope from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Germany. That’s because this microscope bears little resemblance to a traditional optical microscope, looking more like a digital camera or a cellular phone. With an optical length of only 5.3 millimeters, the sleek imaging device is small enough to be carried in a pocket and operated by being held in the user’s hand.
But don’t assume that the device is all looks: the microscope can examine specimens to a resolution of five micrometers. Results only take fractions of a second to generate, and images are recorded so quickly that the images aren’t blurred even if the user is holding the microscope in his or her hand.
How did researchers manage to fit so much power into such a small device?
“Our ultrathin microscope consists of not just one but a multitude of tiny imaging channels, with lots of tiny lenses arrayed alongside one another. Each channel records a tiny segment of the object at the same size for a 1:1 image,” Wippermann [IOF group manager Dr. Frank Wippermann] explains. Each slice is roughly 300 x 300 µm² in size and fits seamlessly alongside the neighboring slice; a computer program then assembles these to generate the overall picture. The difference between this technology and a scanner microscope: all of the image slices are recorded simultaneously.
Article from Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft: Microscope – handy, quick and flat