Construction of operational prototype

ESA microscope: operation of first prototype

A working prototype of the proposed microscope has been constructed, with a calibrated spacers utilised for focussing the lens and a vertical adjustment allowing the object to be focussed on the sensor.

First prototype mock-up

In this provisional design, a well fitted with a graticule can be focussed by raising or lowering the well array. In this concept, the lens/sensor distance remains fixed. A laser beam is used to provide lateral (dark-ground) illumination. The focal plane is established by imaging a graticule within a well base. The well array can then be moved laterally so that a fluid-filled well can now be imaged by the sensor. Living microorganisms can be visualised by this technique, which avoids a substage assembly and greatly compresses the light path. By utilising the lens in place of the front half of a conventional video camera - retaining only the sensor - the light path extends for little more than an inch.

A separate line of development involves designing an illumination system utilising a laser.

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