Researchers have made an inexpensive and portable high-resolution 3D printed microscope that is small and robust enough to use in the field or at the bedside. The high-resolution 3D images provided by the instrument could potentially be used to detect diabetes, sickle cell disease, malaria, and other diseases.
The new microscope doesn’t require any special staining or labels and could help increase access to low-cost medical diagnostic testing. This would be especially beneficial in developing parts of the world where there is limited access to health care and few high-tech diagnostic facilities.
The new 3D printed microscope is based on digital holographic microscopy. The portable instrument produces 3D images with twice the resolution of traditional digital holographic microscopy, which is typically performed on an optical table in a laboratory. In addition to biomedical applications, it could also be useful for research, manufacturing, defense, and education.
The entire system consists of 3D printed parts and commonly found optical components, making it inexpensive and easy to replicate. Alternative laser sources and image sensors would further reduce the cost.
The researchers were able to boost the resolution of digital holographic microscopy beyond what is possible with uniform illumination by combining it with a super-resolution technique known as structured illumination microscopy.