The SMALL Microscope: Scanning microscopy on a chip

Fresnel zone plates use extremely short focal lengths. The Crozier lab has demonstrated that an imaging system with a short focal length zone plate, in combination with a spatial filter formed by a relay lens, can provide a high collection efficiency and high resolution. That is, a Fresnel zone plate based imaging system can perform two critical functions of a standard microscope, magnification and illumination, without a standard microscope’s pinhole aperture. Without apertures, different lenses for different apertures will not be needed to view differently sized samples. For example, scanning microscopy could be performed in parallel because the single relay lens operates as an aperture for many confocal spots simultaneously. Currently, conventional microscopes require elaborate scanning mechanisms that make parallelization and integration difficult.


Dr. Kenneth Crozier has developed a new device that has dramatically improved the capabilities of microscopy. His device uses Fresnel zone plates that combine the microscope’s collection and spatial filtering functions into a single element. This new device improves the image, it increases the number of samples that can be scanned, and it reduces the size of samples.

In other words, researchers will no longer need a conventional microscope, or the expense associated with owning and maintaining one. Researchers will be able to perform microfluidic imaging of a variety of organisms and cells types, without one.

This device also has potential to be used in lab-on-a-chip technologies. These technologies combine several laboratory processes together on a single chip. That chip can then perform diagnostics on very small volumes of fluids, cells, bacteria, and viruses. With Dr. Crozier’s new scanning microscopy, the lab-on-a-chip technologies could be less expensive, use smaller fluid samples, and be used for a broader set of organisms and cell types than current technologies. With these improvements, the diagnostic results for identification of diseases, biochemical assays, and DNA extraction can be expanded.

U.S. Patent(s) Issued: US8879147B2