Microscope Lens Inspired By Lighthouse

An optical device resembling a miniature lighthouse lens can make peering into Petri dishes and observing molecular-level details of biological processes, such as cancer cell growth, easier. The new microscope lens is also very affordable.

Many bioimaging techniques necessitate the addition of fluorescent dyes to specific cell targets. However, a recently developed Stimulated Raman Scattering (SRS) method employing a microscope lens can avoid time-consuming labeling by collecting molecular vibrational signals from biological samples using laser pulses. Researchers have begun to use SRS microscopes for in vivo disease diagnostic studies due to their ability to produce high-resolution, noninvasive images at real-time speeds.

However, one disadvantage of SRS microscopes is that the detection system is influenced by a background signal known as cross-phase modulation caused by the intense interactions between laser pulses and samples. Using laser-based 3D printing, researchers created an ultrathin SRS microscopy lens. The team printed tiny lens-like and mirror-like features into a transparent polymer only a fraction of a millimeter thick, taking inspiration from the slender design of lighthouse lenses.

The researcher said this lens design is a very efficient way to collect and redirect light from wide-angle sources to our laser detector. It also fits easily into the closed chambers of an incubator due to its thinness.

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