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Technology and Awards

Since the invention of the optical microscope in the 17th century, scientists and doctors have used it to magnify and study tissues, cells and micro-organisms that cannot be seen with our naked eye. However, microscopes can only show objects down to 200 nm in size, which means there are many objects too small to be seen.

One example is viruses. Coronaviruses, the cause of viral outbreaks like the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), measure between 100 and 140 nanometres in diameter

Scientists can use microscopy techniques to push the boundaries of a regular microscope, such as treating samples with fluorescent molecules to enhance the imaging. However, these invasive methods are less than ideal as they can modify biological specimens in the process.

An invention from researchers at National University of Singapore’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering has made it easy and cost efficient to upgrade microscopes to nanoscopes using just miniature glass spheres. An added bonus – it can even image live biological specimens under natural light without damaging or harming the specimens.