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U of U researchers utilize glass needle to make miniature microscope

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Posted at 9:52 PM, Aug 23, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-23 23:53:23-04

SALT LAKE CITY – A team at the University of Utah has developed a new, tiny microscope designed to help researchers better explore areas deep within the brain.

The microscope is about the size of a single strand of hair and it uses light to transmit its images.

Rajesh Menon is an associate professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Utah, and he spoke about the project.

“So what we have done is basically take a tiny little needle and convert it into a microscope that can actually, can do the same thing as a microscope that sits on a big table,” he said.

The process uses a $40 glass needle and can capture images of things up to 70 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Menon said he hopes the development helps in the diagnosing and treating of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. He said there is still work to be done before the microscope is used.

“Lots of potential applications in the future, and of course here we are really just at the tip of the iceberg in the sense that we have only demonstrated the fact that this idea can work on an optical bench, but now the real fun begins,” he said.

Menon said the needle’s size helps them explore previously harder-to-reach areas.

“Now, because the light can pass through a needle, we can push the needle in even deeper without actually damaging the brain, because the needle is so small,” he said.

Researchers hope the small size and low-cost of the microscope will make it useful for researchers in fields from biochemistry to mining.