Despite the rapid progress in optical imaging, most of the advanced microscopy modalities still require complex and costly set-ups that unfortunately limit their use beyond well equipped laboratories. In the meantime, microscopy in resource-limited settings has requirements significantly different from those encountered in advanced laboratories, and such imaging devices should be cost-effective, compact, light-weight and appropriately accurate and simple to be usable by minimally trained personnel. Furthermore, these portable microscopes should ideally be digitally integrated as part of a telemedicine network that connects various mobile health-care providers to a central laboratory or hospital. Toward this end, here we demonstrate a lensless on-chip microscope weighing ∼46 grams with dimensions smaller than 4.2 cm × 4.2 cm × 5.8 cm that achieves sub-cellular resolution over a large field of view of ∼24 mm2. This compact and light-weight microscope is based on digital in-line holography and does not need any lenses, bulky optical/mechanical components or coherent sources such as lasers. Instead, it utilizes a simple light-emitting-diode (LED) and a compact opto-electronic sensor-array to record lensless holograms of the objects, which then permits rapid digital reconstruction of regular transmission or differential interference contrast (DIC) images of the objects. Because this lensless incoherent holographic microscope has orders-of-magnitude improved light collection efficiency and is very robust to mechanical misalignments it may offer a cost-effective tool especially for telemedicine applications involving various global health problems in resource limited settings.
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