An Orbiting Microscope for the European Space Agency

Finished microscope (small)

The completed prototype in use

A major recent project has been the design and development of a microscope for the European Space Agency. The work was commissioned by Professor Heinz Wolff of Brunel University.

The research involved the re-design of a phase contrast microscope. In the interests of economy of volume and mass, the phase illumination array was replaced by a dark-ground optical system. Conventional lighting was superceded by a laser dioide. This provides greatly increased contrast (important for living specimens) and allowed one to economise on space to a remarkable extent. The prototype (above) has now been put into production, with a date for launch into orbit early in the new millennium.

Utilising the Web
At each stage, the results of the research were put onto the web. This allowed Heinz Wolff and his colleagues to see the results as they came in, and provides an object lesson in how the world wide web can be harnessed in the interests of scientific research. The immediacy of communicating our results in this way would have been impossible via any other means.

Follow the Research
The progress of the research can be followed by moving to the opening page of the sequence, and following the links at the end of each section. Alternatively, click on a heading (below) to observe a specific stage in the research. NOTE that most files on the site are 12-20kb in size; because of their specialised nature, the images on these pages are larger (many occupy 50kb).

The design of the new instrument has resulted in a unique laser microscope , smaller than any comparable instrument available for the study of cell aggregates.

Cick here to access academic report on this paper.