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Scientists turn a US$40 needle into a high-quality 3D microscope

The low-cost device is capable of producing images around 70 times smaller than the width of a human hair, a development that could offer new insights into how particular proteins in the brain function.

"We can get approximately 1-micron-resolution images that only $250,000 and higher microscopes are capable of generating," says Rajesh Menon, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Utah. "Miniature microscopes are limited to the few tens of microns."

Working with graduate student Ganghun Kim, Menon devised a microscopic method where light passes through a fiber optic needle or cannula. As light from an object enters one end of the cannula, it bounces around inside before exiting at the other end. This creates an initially scrambled image, something the pair designed special algorithms in order to decipher and then use to generate an image of the object.

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