Digital processing yields lens-free microscope

Imec has demonstrated a lens-free microscope for large field-of-view live imaging at micrometer resolution.

IMEC lens-free microscope

Imec’s on-chip lens-free microscope can be integrated into life sciences and biotech tools, targeting multiple applications such as label-free cell monitoring, automated cell culturing, or automated high-throughput microscopy.

Compared to conventional optical microscopes, lens-free digital microscopy removes the need for expensive and bulky optical lens components to acquire and visualize microscopy images.

In a lens-free digital microscope, images are captured on a CMOS image sensor, and digitally reconstructed using software.

The process is based on holographic imaging: light diffracted by an illuminated object and captured by an image sensor, is software post-processed and the image is computed. A single 2D image capture is sufficient to volumetrically image a 3D sample, and focus depth can be adjusted by post-processing so there is no need for multiple measurements.

Accuracy in Imec’s lens-free microscope is micrometer-scale – comparable to traditional optical microscopes, said the lab.

IMEC lens-free microscope - detail“This microscope will enable an abundance of applications, where traditional microscopes are just not applicable,” says Imec’s Andy Lambrechts, “recently, we demonstrated its ability to be integrated into a bio-incubator in stem-cell research for cell culture monitoring, and for cardio-toxicity testing, where the microscope monitored contractions of cardiac tissue in response to drugs. With impressive results our team has branched out even further and is exploring its ability measure fabrication tolerances and stress in our in-house developed neural probe chips, and for defect inspection of thin-film displays.”

“Imec’s lens free imaging solution is now available as a full, ready-to-use demo kit evaluation system including a light source, image sensor, control and read-out electronics and a software interface,” says Imec business manager Jerome Baron,  “companies can use it to try out their own applications, supported by our engineers to fine-tune the hardware and software and customize the systems toward their exact application requirements.”


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