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Flat Microscope for Skin Cancer Scanning and More

By Lito Carasig - Friday, May 06, 2011

Flat Microscope

If you’re like me, you wouldn’t recognize the item in the picture.  Yes, the flat one besides the – what’s that? – nozzle.  So if I told you that that box like device up there is a microscope, I bet you’d be sceptical and suspicious.  Isn’t that some kind of cell phone? Or a secret ipod nano prototype?  Well, I’m telling you that’s a microscope.

When we hear microscope, the image that comes to our minds is that of the one from our lab in school. But the brains from Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering (Germany) designed their new microscope this way for many functional purposes.

The new ultrathin design consists of not just one but several tiny imaging channels which are also made up of miniscule lenses put side by side to form an array then stacked one on top other.  Each channel records a specific segment of the object being scanned at the same size.  The very small segments are then manipulated a computer program to generate the complete picture. Conventional scanner microscopes, on the other hand, slowly scan areas one at a time to complete an image, the new microscope is designed to make measurements with a single pass thus making it really fast. All images are simultaneously recorded.

The microscope has an optical length of only 5.3 mm which makes it lightweight slim enough to fit in your hand.  This small form factor makes it the ideal tool for doctors to detect many types of diseases including skin cancer.  Other application where the new technology can be of use include authentication of documents for evidence purposes and in forensics to positively identify victims using medical records.

A prototype has already been made and it will be showcased at the LASER World of PHOTONICS trade fair in Munich. It may take at least two more years before the prototype goes into production but because of its much potential, technical people alike are all awaiting the finished and polished product.

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