MIT Researchers Make Microscopes From Water Droplets

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Water droplets the width of a human hair can be used as microscopes, according to a study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The study created “microlenses” from beads of oil mixed into water. These droplets could be reconfigured to magnify images of nearby objects as well as adjust the way they filter light, similar to adjusting the focus on a microscope.

“We have shown fluids are very versatile optically,” Dr. Mathias Kolle, an MIT professor of mechanical engineering, said in a press statement. “We can create complex geometries that form lenses, and these lenses can be tuned optically. When you have a tunable microlens, you can dream up all sorts of applications.”

Researchers hope these could be used as liquid pixels on future three-dimensional displays, as they could direct light at precisely determined angles. This could easily be adjusted to allow images to be projected. Alternatively, the research could be used to make existing microscopes much smaller.

“The whole system could be the size of your phone or wallet,” Kolle said. “If you put some electronics around it, you have a microscope where you can flow blood cells or other cells through and visualize them in 3-D.”

The technique could also be used to refract light into specific directions.

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