Microscopy news – February 2014

Entanglement Enhanced Microscope

Takafumi Ono and colleagues at Hokkaido University in Japan developed the first entanglement enhanced microscope. These are variants of the differential interference contrast microscopes and use entangled photons instead of regular light. This way they were able to increase the resolution of the microscope by 1.35 times over the ordinary system. This microscope is able to detect extremely small differences of sample height by measuring the interference pattern of the light that exits the specimen. In the setup that they used, the letter Q was etched into a sample. The letter was only 17nm higher than the surrounding. Using normal light microscopic techniques, this small difference in height is almost not detectable. Entangles photons carry more information and therefore could resolve the specimen without problems.
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Super Resolution Microscopy

The Journal of Optics has selected super resolution microscopy as the “2013 Highlight”. The resolution of conventional microscopes is determined by the so-called diffraction limit. Super resolution microscopy overcomes this limit by using fluorescent labeling and computer modeling. The cells are first labeled with a fluorescent dye, which lights up in UV light. The bright spot of the dye is quite large (adhering to the diffraction limit). Computers are now used to calculate the center of each spot to obtain the high resolution. In order to prevent the problem of overlapping spots, the fluorescent dyes can be switched on and off so that only one spot is visible at a time.
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3D Visualization of Spermatozoa

Scientists trapped living sperm cells between two lasers and were able to determine their three dimensional position in space, based on the interference pattern that they made. The researchers were also able to record their 3D movement on video, which provided more information on the effect of sperm abnormalities. So far, only the two dimensional movement of the sperm could be observed. The new technique gives fertility scientist new insight on the effect of sperm defects on the movement.
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New Surgical Microscope

Sometimes tumor removal operations have to be repeated, because the edges of the tumor (which contain cancerous cells) was not removed and continues to grow. A new generation surgical microscope now addresses this problem. It allows for real-time observation of cells during a surgery. The microscope several tiny microscopes (each one about 1 mm) arranged next to each other. This way it is possible to obtain both high magnification of about 1000x together with a large field of view. One main difficulty in the development of this microscope was the miniaturization of the focusing lenses.
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In-vivo Microscopy

Eye problems in horses can now be detected more easily with a new in vivo corneal confocal microscope. This microscope has a focal distance of 1.5 mm and is therefore able to completely cover the depth of a horse’s cornea of 1 mm. The cornea, the outermost part of the eye, might be harmed by fungal infections, microscopic injuries or other problems. These damages can now be diagnosed much faster by taking a direct picture of the eye.
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SEM images of Arthropods

I found a new FaceBook page with scanning electron micrographs of “Arthropods and other Organisms”. It is worth a visit, the images are indeed impressive.
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