Biologists almost never see the sides of cells. Traditional microscopes only show them the top. Now, though, Vanderbilt scientists have created what’s being called “the world’s smallest periscope”:
The researchers have dubbed their devices “mirrored pyramidal wells.” As the name implies, they consist of pyramidal-shaped cavities molded into silicon whose interior surfaces are coated with a reflective layer of gold or platinum. They are microscopic in dimension – about the width of a human hair – and can be made in a range of sizes to view different-sized objects. When a cell is placed in such a well and viewed with a regular optical microscope, the researcher can see several sides simultaneously.
This low-cost 3D microscopic technique could become standard practice, and become as common as the traditional slide. If only somebody could tell Stephen Boyd or Edmond O’Brien.
A sunflower pollen grain from five vantage points, PhyOrg.