Hack Transforms Common Microscopes Into Gigapixel Superscopes


Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have come up with an inexpensive way to boost the resolution of common microscopes by a factor of 100, allowing medical clinics in developing countries to conduct complex tests with existing equipment.

Changhuei Yang, a professor of electrical engineering, bioengineering and medical engineering at Caltech, announced the breakthrough Sunday in an article published in Nature Photonics.

Traditonally, increasing the magnification power in a microscope meant stacking more lens elements inside, pushing up cost and forcing scientists to choose between high resolution or a wide field of view, Yang explained.

The CIT system takes multiple low-resolution images of a subject, each corresponding to a single light in an LED array below the sample. That way, the a computer has information from light hitting the sample at different angles when it stitches the images together into a composite with resolution of up to a billion pixels.

Setup (credit_Guoan Zheng)

“The optical performance of the objective lens is rendered almost irrelevant,” Yang told Caltech, “as we can improve the resolution and correct for aberrations computationally.”

Yang said the process has the potential to improve the detail, efficiency and speed of operations ranging from medical pathology to semiconductor inspection, all without big investments in new technology. The computational system costs about $200 to add to conventional microscope. (Legos apparently optional.)

“You only need to add an LED array to an existing microscope. No other hardware modification is needed. The rest of the job is done by the computer.”

(via Caltech and Engadget)

Image credits: Yan Liang and Guoan Zheng, via Caltech)

  • solyndra1

    thats beautiful

  • Niels Bo Nielsen

    I so want one. I always been disappointed with my microscope’s performance. Tried dividing the image files into rgb channels and then assemble them, because of the chromatic aberration of the achromatic lens.

    This seem so much better and it’s cheap

  • Sam Agnew

    I would love to see this technology in a film scanner.

  • plunk52o

    Royal Rife patented a computerless chromatic microscope and was run out of business by the American Medical Association 50 years before the inexpensive computer hack of conventional microscopes.

  • Michael Andrew Broughton

    rife was a fraud and his modern-day followers are making a fortune off of fake cancer cures and killing people in the process.

  • plunk52o

    If your assertions of Rife were true i’d take the time to beg your pardon. Thankfully the affadavits by physicians who he helped were not assertions the way your attempted calumny of his banned technology would have us believe. Go back to big pharma, they are calling out for you Whistler.

  • plunk52o

    As i stated, the New York Times ran an article on the Medical symposium of physicians held to congratulate Rife for his results on their patients.

  • Sky

    O_O sounds brilliant!
    Makes me wish to have a microscope!