Everything’s going digital these days, including the petri dish that is a mainstay in science laboratories. Engineers from the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) recently took the humble petri dish to a whole new level in the form of the ePetri dish, which is actually a small, lens-free microscopy imaging platform. Needless to say, with the proliferation of smartphones these days, it goes without saying that the prototype of the ePetri dish was built using one in addition to Lego building blocks.

The culture in question is placed on an image sensor chip, whereby the handset’s LED display will function as a scanning light source. When the ePetri device is then placed in an incubator, the image sensor chip will be hooked up to a laptop outside the incubator via a cable. As the image-sensor captures images of the culture (hopefully nothing like Contagion!), all relevant data will be sent to the laptop in order for cultures to be monitored as they grow.

This results in a lightweight microscope that does not skimp on image quality, and there is no longer any need for using a large, heavy instrument instead. As the ePetri can monitor the whole field, it is also endowed with the ability to zoom in on areas of interest within the culture. Interesting stuff, right?

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