Focusing on Optics
NSF-supported research at Rensselaer’s Center for Automation Technologies and Systems (CATS) has resulted in a new, MEMs-based microscope that provides both a large field of view and high resolution.
New York state supports the CATS at Rensselaer to provide support for businesses using or manufacturing automated systems. CATS director John Wen helped an electronics company devise a solution that subdued vibrations in laser scanning. Realizing the potential of the technology, he applied for an NSF grant that helped him and his colleagues develop the adaptive scanning optical microscope (ASOM).
In the ASOM, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) create a deformable mirror that changes shape to correct off-axis blurring. Thorlabs Inc. licensed the technology and won the 2007 innovation of the year award from LaserFocusWorld magazine for the product.
At Rensselaer, work on the next generations of the microscope continues, with support from the state. Wen also has adapted the technology for telescopes and is using it for laser beam shaping. He is collaborating with Rensselaer researchers Jonathan Dordick, the Howard P. Isermann ’42 Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, and Fern Finger, assistant professor of biology, to adapt the microscope for their biotech research.
Dordick is using the technology in a chip-reading system that is critical for high-throughput analysis in the toxicology assay methods he is developing. These lab-on-a-chip systems combine metabolic enzyme catalysis with screening on a microscale platform to recognize potential toxicity in early stages of drug development.
Finger works with the roundworm C. elegans, a model system for developmental biology. Her lab is collaborating with Wen’s to develop the capabilities of the ASOM so it can be used for imaging developmental processes in multiple freely moving worms at high resolution.