A new transparent coating turns microscopes into thermometers


Credit: University at Buffalo.

The study, published online in Nature Communications, describes how an updated version of glass microscope slides can now enable scientists to see tiny objects while simultaneously measuring their temperature.

The new transparent coating at the forefront of optics theory has the potential to help streamline and enhance scientific research worldwide, from clandestine government biology labs to high school chemistry classes.

“We have instruments that magnify incredibly small objects. And we have tools that measure heat, like infrared thermometers. But we haven’t been able to combine them in a low-cost and reliable manner. This new coating takes a big step in that direction,” said the study’s co-lead author Ruogang Zhao, PhD, assistant professor in the University at Buffalo (UB) Department of Biomedical Engineering.


The illustration depicts the three-layered coating, in which acrylic glass is sandwiched between extremely thin layers of gold.
Credit: University at Buffalo.


Zhao collaborated with researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, including co-lead author Liang Feng, PhD, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, and electrical and systems engineering.

According to UB, researchers have tried to combine thermal imaging and microscopy for many years. So far, images produced from systems that use thermocouples lack resolution and are often too coarse for modern science. Terahertz and infrared thermal mapping techniques interfere with the microscope’s lenses. Other techniques are expensive and time-consuming.

The coating, which is claimed to significantly enhance the slide’s sensitivity to light detection, would be added to slides during the manufacturing process, with either the slide or cover slip receiving the coating.

To make use of the new coating, a laser is needed. Zhao says a common helium-neon laser, which can be seamlessly integrated with most microscopes, will do the job.

The research is supported by funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Source: University at Buffalo


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