The year 2015 marks the UN international year of light. Light has influenced across multi-disciplines of sciences, engineering, energy and medicine. Lenses form the most important elements of almost all standard optical systems. In refractive lenses, the focal length is intricately linked to the curvature of the lenses.
For centuries, lenses are traditionally made with complex machinery because the need for fine grinding and re-flow moulding techniques to create smooth lens surface. So, how can we simplify such a complex process? In the first part of the talk, I shall discuss the role of liquid droplets in optics and our recent discovery in harvesting solid polymer lenses from hanging liquid droplets. These lenses are powerful enough to transform your smartphone into an optical microscope and opens up the world of microscopy to the masses.
Microscopy is the ability to see the very small, is a simple but powerful technique to illustrate the marvels and power of light. The appeal of microscopy, much like astronomy, let us look beyond just focusing light through a simple lens. Microscopy has transformed many fundamental understanding in biology and medicine. Yet, imaging cellular activities in an entire intact whole organ with light is a grand challenge in optical microscopy. On-going efforts to reduce optical scattering for whole organ imaging includes endoscopy, adaptive optics, chemical clearing and infrared lasers.
The combination of adaptive optics (AO) and endoscopy directly restores the optical point spread function that was previously degraded by tissue scattering for imaging in deep tissue whilst providing an optical window into deeper parts of intact tissue. Chemical optical clearing methods, on the other hand, directly replace the interstitial components in tissues with refractive-index matching solution, thus turning intact organs into a state of near transparency.
In second part of my talk, I shall elaborate the engineering challenges in deep tissue imaging and further elaborate on some of the approaches that are undertaken to overcome these challenges namely: microendoscope, adaptive optics and chemical clearing.
Steve Lee completed his undergraduate training in Engineering at the Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) and a PhD in Optics at the University of St Andrews (UK). In 2010, he left the UK to pursue a 2-year postdoctoral training at Wellman Photomedicine/Harvard Medical School (USA) in the area of intravital microscopy followed by a short stint as a Vice Chancellor Fellow at UNSW on nanowire nano-manipulation. In 2013, he started his own research group at ANU Research School of Engineering that focus on developing novel optical techniques and instruments to harness light for application in biomedicine and nanotechnology. In 2014, he joins ARC Centre of Excellence for Advanced Molecular Imaging as an Associated Investigator to develop the next generation of intravital microscopy for in-vivo imaging.