Low-cost portable microscopy systems for biomedical imaging and healthcare applications

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2024
Thesis identifier
  • T16900
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 202071219
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • In recent years, the development of low-cost portable microscopes (LPMs) has opened new possibilities for disease detection and biomedical research, especially in resource-limited areas. Despite these advancements, the majority of existing LPMs are hampered by sophisticated optical and mechanical designs, require extensive post-data analysis, and are often tailored for specific biomedical applications, limiting their broader utility. Furthermore, creating an optical-sectioning microscope that is both compact and cost effective presents a significant challenge. Addressing these critical gaps, this PhD study aims to: (1) develop a universally applicable LPM featuring a simplified mechanical and optical design for real-time biomedical imaging analysis, and (2) design a novel, smartphone-based optical sectioning microscope that is both compact and affordable. These objectives are driven by the need to enhance accessibility to quality diagnostic tools in varied settings, promising a significant leap forward in the democratization of biomedical imaging technologies. With 3D printing, optimised optical design, and AI techniques, we can develop LPM’s real time analysis functionality. I conducted a literature review on LPMs and related applications in my study and implemented two low-cost prototype microscopes and one theoretical study. 1) The first project is a portable AI fluorescence microscope based on a webcam and the NVIDIA Jetson Nano (NJN) with real-time analysis functionality. The system was 3D printed, weighing ~250 grams with a size of 145mm × 172 mm × 144 mm (L×W×H) and costing ~$400. It achieves a physical magnification of ×5 and can resolve 228.1 lp/mm USAF features. The system can recognise and count fluorescent beads and human red blood cells (RBCs). 2) I developed a smartphone-based optical sectioning microscope using the HiLo technique. To our knowledge, it is the first smartphone-based HiLo microscope that offers low-cost optical-sectioned widefield imaging. It has a 571.5 μm telecentric scanning range and an 11.7 μm axial resolution. I successfully used it to realize optical sectioning imaging of fluorescent beads. For this system, I developed a new low-cost HiLo microscopy technique using microlens arrays (MLAs) with incoherent light-emitting diode (LED) light sources. I conducted a numerical simulation study assessing the integration of uncoherent LEDs and MLAs for a low-cost HiLo system. The MLA can generate structured illumination in HiLo. How the MLA’s geometry structure and physical parameters affect the image performance were discussed in detail. This PhD thesis explores the advancement of low-cost portable microscopes (LPMs) through the integration of 3D printing, optimized optical design, and artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to enhance their real-time analysis capabilities. The research involved a comprehensive literature review on LPMs and their applications, leading to the development of two innovative prototype LPMs, alongside a theoretical study. These works contribute significantly to the field by not only addressing the technical and financial barriers associated with advanced microscopy but also by laying the groundwork for future innovations in portable and accessible biomedical imaging. Through its focus on simplification, affordability, and practicality, the research holds promise for substantially expanding the reach and impact of diagnostic imaging technologies, especially in those resource-limited areas.
Advisor / supervisor
  • Li, David
  • Chen, Yu
Resource Type