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Mar 13, 2017 09:13 AM EDT

MIT Researchers Create Microscopes From Complex Liquid Droplets

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Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) were able to create tiny "microlenses" derived from complex liquid droplets. These small lenses were said to have the same width as a human hair.

The droplets were comprised of an emulsion, which is a combination of two liquids, with one droplet encapsulated in another. This is similar to a bead of oil inside a drop of water, Phys.org reported.

These complex liquid droplets can magnify and produce images of surrounding objects. Now, though, the MIT researchers were able to reconfigure the properties of each droplet to adjust how they filter and scatter light, just like how to adjust the focus on a microscope.

They used a mix of chemistry and light to shape the curvature of the interface between the internal bead and its surrounding object more accurately. The interface serves as internal lens, similar to the compounded lens in microscopes.

Mathias Kolle, the Brit and Alex d'Arbeloff Career Development Assistant Professor in MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering, said that they were able to prove that fluids are optically versatile and that they can make complex geometries to form lenses which can be tuned. Tunable microlens, Kolle added, can lead to several applications.

These tunable microlenses can be used as liquid pixels in a 3D display. They can direct light to precise angles and project images that can change depending on the angle from which they are seen.

Kolle also admitted that he hopes that this research would lead to pocket-sized microscopes that can take a sample of blood and pass it over these microlenses. The droplets would be able to catch the images from various perspectives and be used to recover a 3D image of individual blood cells. According to the Daily Caller, this technique can also be utilized to refract light into certain directions.

It was previously reported that Manu Prakash, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford, was also able to develop the Foldscope. It is an origami-like paper microscope that only costs about $1.50.

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