SBIR Phase I: Wavefront Microscopy: A low-cost implementation of high-quality microscopic phase imaging for bioscience teaching and training

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 0945531
Agency Tracking Number: 0945531
Amount: $150,000.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2009
Solicitation Year: N/A
Solicitation Topic Code: BC
Solicitation Number: NSF 09-541
Small Business Information
1052 E. Del Mar Blvd. Suite 11, Pasadena, CA, 91106
DUNS: 830249897
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Emily McDowell
 (330) 322-1699
Business Contact
 Emily McDowell
Title: PhD
Phone: (330) 322-1699
Research Institution
This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project aims to develop a low-cost, easy-to-use, image sensing attachment for standard microscopes that provides phase imaging capabilities. The functionality of the bulk optics typically required for such a specialized microscopy technique is replaced by special processing of the sensor chip itself. The major challenges that must be addressed to develop such a device involve the fundamental limitations of currently available sensor chips in terms of both pixel size and sensor noise. The objective of this research is to develop innovative software algorithms to implement the proposed technology on available sensor chips. This will involve separating the contributions of adjacent sensor elements with the goal of maximizing resolution and minimizing cross-talk. We will then evaluate the devices based on a standard resolution target as well as samples of microscopic soil-borne organisms of interest for low-level teaching laboratory exercises. Finally, the team will develop an interactive software platform for integrating the device in an educational setting. The Principal Investigator anticipates the development of a functional device with a resolution of at least 11 ýý in the image plane and cross-talk limited to 5% that is capable of diffraction-limited imaging at magnifications above 40x. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project can be summarized as follows. This proposal describes a simple method that allows microscope users to gain access to high-quality phase imaging for viewing transparent samples. This is important for a number of market segments, specifically research, clinical, and industrial segments. Instead of using optical components that must be carefully aligned by a highly trained microscopist, the imaging device simply screws onto the camera port of a microscope. Since the required fabrication procedures are straightforward, this device can be developed at low-cost for use in teaching and training labs that operate on limited budgets. Digital images are displayed on a screen that can be viewed by multiple students or trainees at one time. Additionally, this novel image sensor is capable of displaying more information than any standard phase imaging microscopy technique, potentially enabling new research directions or new clinical diagnostics. The current market opportunity includes both the sale of such devices with new microscopes, replacing existing phase components, as well as a large amount of installed base (microscopes currently in use) to which our device can be retrofit. Since the camera port on microscopes is standardized, this retrofit does not pose technical challenges.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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