MIT researchers develop liquid droplet microscope

By their nature, liquid droplets are natural magnifying glasses. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) used them to create tiny microlenses about the size of a human hair.

Each droplet consists of an emulsion or a combination of two liquids: one is encapsulated in the other, like a ball of oil in a drop of water. Even in natural form, these droplets can enlarge and form images of surrounding objects. But the researchers learned to change the properties of each drop by changing the filter and scattering light, as is done when changing the focus on a microscope.

The scientists used a combination of chemistry and light to shape the curvature of the interface between the inner and outer parts of the droplet. This pairing acts as a kind of internal lens, comparable to the lenses of a microscope.

According to scientists, reconfigurable microlenses can be used as liquid pixels in a three-dimensional display or a pocket microscope to study blood drops in order to restore a volumetric image of individual cells.