It is obvious that to serve remote areas of the world, doctors, nurses and field workers need equipment that is portable, versatile, and relatively inexpensive.
Now researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) have built a compact, light-weight, dual-mode microscope that uses holograms instead of lenses. The team describes the new device in a paper published today in the Optical Society's (OSA) open-access journal Biomedical Optics Express
Their prototype weighs about as much as a medium-sized banana and fits in the palm of a hand. And, since it relies in part on mass-produced consumer electronics, all the materials to make it add up to between $50 and $100 USD.
It also has a two-in-one feature: a transmission mode that can be used to probe relatively large volumes of blood or water, and a reflection mode that can image denser, opaque samples. The spatial resolution for both modes is less than two micrometers—comparable to that achieved by bulkier microscopes with low- to medium-power lenses.