Confocal Microscope with 2-D Array of LEDs
Confocal microscopes can provide 3-dimensional (3D) images with superior contrast and depth resolution compared to conventional wide-field microscopy because they reject the out-of-focus light. This makes them the tool of choice for advanced laboratory imaging, e.g. for life sciences or industrial inspection applications. In most confocal microscopes, illumination is provided by a scanning laser beam, requiring high-speed optomechanics that add significant complexity and cost to the instrumentation.
This invention removes the need for a scanner – or any moving parts - by using a 2-dimensional (2D) microarray of light emitting diodes (LEDs) that can be electronically switched to provide the scanning illumination. When this is combined with a 2D array detector that can also be electronically switched to provide a synchronised (confocal) aperture or array of apertures, it is possible to realise optical sectioning of 3D structures such as biological tissue with minimal complexity or cost.
The use of solid state LED and detector arrays, instead of a laser and optomechanical scanner, makes the overall device:
· More robust
· Lower in cost to manufacture
· Easier to miniaturise and adapt to hand-held or portable instruments
· Low in running costs (energy consumption)
This invention could open up markets for lower cost, high quality, imaging in sectors that have previously been held back by the prohibitive cost and complexity of conventional confocal microscopes. Potential markets include:
· Medical instruments for use at the point-of-care (e.g. in GP surgeries)
· Hand-held or portable instruments such as 3D fingerprint readers, barcode readers or lab-on-a-chip devices
· Endoscopic instruments for medical applications
· Quality inspection of semiconductor
A patent has been filed (WO/2007/113473) and owner is seeking partners who would be interested in development and/or licensing opportunities.
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