Spotlight on MicroscopySince the invention of optical microscopes in the 1600s, the field of microscopy has evolved tremendously. This simple instrument has become a valuable scientific tool in microelectronics and advanced-materials science, life sciences research, and nanotechnology.

So much is happening in the world of microscopes. Here are some of the developments that hit the headlines this year:

  • Computer-generated microscopic images have helped researchers at the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica and the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California solve a molecular puzzle on how the HIV pathogen invades immune cell systems. These computer-generated images of the molecules are 185,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, and it is hoped that they can help researchers develop a drug that can arrest HIV’s cellular invasion.
  • In collaboration with partners at NASA, researchers at MIT have developed a new concept for a microscope that would use neutrons instead electrons to create high-resolution images. Unlike beams of light or electrons, neutrons are subatomic particles with no electrical charge. Neuron-based microscopes will allow scientists to examine the internal structure of metal objects such as fuel cells, batteries, and engines even when they are operating.
  • Doctors, engineers and scientists from Stanford are developing a microscope that can help earlier interventions for cancer. This non-invasive mini-microscope is expected to be able to detect circulating tumor cells (CTCs) that are responsible for new cancerous growths.
  • At Université Pierre et Marie Curie in France, researchers have come up with a new technology called “haptic optical tweezers” which allows microscope users to reach through the lens and manipulate samples. Imagine the freedom and accessibility that this new method will offer lab professionals in the exploration, diagnosis and assembly of elements from sensors and microsystems to biomedical such as cells, bacteria, viruses, and proteins.

The field of microscopy will continue to develop rapidly as new requirements and imaging technologies make their entry. The demand for microscopes is also growing and according to a TechNavio forecast, the Global Electron Microscope market is set to grow at a CAGR of 9.9 percent over the period 2012-2016.