Blu-ray Microscope Uses Blood Cells As Lenses

Blu-ray player with 3 slides on a disk

When you think of high-throughput ptychographic cytometry (wait, you do think about high throughput ptychographic cytometry, right?) does it bring to mind something you can hack together from an old Blu-ray player, an Arduino, and, er, some blood? Apparently so for [Shaowei Jiang] and some of his buddies in this ACS Sensors Article.

For those of you who haven’t had a paper accepted by the American Chemical Society, we should probably clarify things a bit. Ptychography is a computational method of microscopic imaging, and cytometry has to do with measuring the characteristics of cells. Obviously.

This is definitely what science looks like.

Anyway, if you shoot a laser through a sample, it diffracts. If you then move the sample slightly, the diffraction pattern shifts. If you capture the diffraction pattern in each position with a CCD sensor, you can reconstruct the shape of the sample using breathtaking amounts of math.

One hitch – the CCD sensor needs a bunch of tiny lenses, and by tiny we mean six to eight microns. Red blood cells are just that size, and they’re lens shaped. So the researcher puts a drop of their own blood on the surface of the CCD and covers it with a bit of polyvinyl film, leaving a bit of CCD bloodless for reference. There’s an absolutely wild video of it in action here.

Don’t have a Blu-ray player handy? We’ve recently covered a promising attempt at building a homebrew scanning electron microscope which might be more your speed. It doesn’t even require any bodily fluids.

[Thanks jhart99]

12 thoughts on “Blu-ray Microscope Uses Blood Cells As Lenses

    1. All that matters is the size and shape of the “lenses”, and human “red” blood cells meet the requirements.

      The blood cells themselves aren’t red, just the hemoglobin protein. Hemoglobin makes up around 1% of blood (11 to 17 grams per deciliter, blood spec gravity about 1.06) while the red cells make up between 30~48% of the volume.

      Without this paper, my first guess would be that the protein would be a substantial “flaw” in the lens, but apparently it isn’t a huge issue.

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