Microscope-On-a-Chip Is One Step Closer to the Tricorder

via Wired: Top Stories by Dave Bullock on 10/12/08


Photo: Dave Bullock/Wired.com LOS ANGELES, California – In the very near future, drawing blood may be obsolete. Instead, implants will be able to image your blood and monitor it constantly. This is because scientists at Caltech have squeezed a microscope onto a computer chip not much larger than a dime. And that’s just the demo unit. Shrinking a standard microscope to this size is practically impossible due to the layers of optics involved, but Caltech professor Changhuei Yang decided to skip the optics altogether and put microscopic samples almost directly onto a photo sensor chip — just like the one found in your cheap point-and-shoot. The microscope-on-a-chip uses standard, off-the-shelf hardware sensors with a clever modification — pixels on the sensor are forced to only look through microscopic holes, which allows the chip to image very tiny things. The standard hardware makes future mass production cheap and easy and Yang’s lab is already working to create a small batch of iPod-size prototypes. He hopes to have working units in doctor’s hands in a year or two, with full production in five5 years. In addition to the handheld devices, Yang envisions blood- monitoring implants that provide instant health warnings and diagnoses. Click through the gallery to learn exactly how this ingenious invention works. Left: A working sample of the microscope-on-a-chip placed next to a dime shows how small it actually is. The part that does most of the work is the…



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