Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems (IPM) in Dresden have developed a microscope head with a diameter of just eight millimeters which can optically resolve and magnify tissue cells measuring just 10 to 20 micrometers.
Fitted in the tip of an endoscope, this can be used for in vivo cancer diagnosis. The scientists envision that the MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical system) microscope head will eliminate the need for biopsies. Diagnosis in real time would enable doctors to decide on the necessary course of treatment more quickly.
“Microscopic image recorders that can be used on endoscopes have not been available up to now. We have developed the first laser-based sensor for this purpose,” says Michael Scholles, business unit manager at the IPMS.
“For endomicroscopy, MEMS-based image sensors are highly advantageous because they can magnify even the smallest object fields, such as cells, without the need for a large lens. We have combined the sensor with a microscanner mirror to achieve the required resolution of 10 micrometers and can therefore massively magnify the tiniest structures.”
Scholles added that an important aspect of the development was to produce a suitable microassembly for the endoscope head. “Here we faced the challenge of making the complete system suitable for installation in the endoscope, and we managed to do it. In future our microscope head will be produced in large quantities in an automated process for subsequent installation in endoscopes,” explains Scholles.
He foresees a wide range of applications for the system. “It could be used not only in medical and biological microscopy but also in technical endoscopy, for instance to examine cavities in buildings, or to inspect the insides of engines and turbines.” The microscope head has already been produced as a demonstrator and can be seen at the Optatec trade show in Frankfurt from June 15 to 18 (Hall 3, Stand D50).