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Publicly Available Published by De Gruyter May 27, 2013

New microscopes push the limits of far field microscopy

Andreas Thoss and Michael Pfeffer

Although available for more than 400 years, microscopes have seen tremendous technological progress in the last 20 years. For a long time, the main ambition of microscopy remained to make smallest structures visible to the human eye. This appeared to be limited by basic optical laws already described by Ernst Abbe a century ago. With the advent of laser technology, advanced staining (if we may call the use of green fluorescent proteins so) and above all incredible computing power some fascinating new developments became possible. Several articles in the focus section of this issue will shine a light on these developments.

The main driver for device and technology development is usually the user and his requirements: Today scientists want to see cellular structures in three dimensions with a resolution beyond the wavelength, with a temporal resolution down to the timescale of molecular processes for new insights into biomedical phenomena.

Most recently, the combination of spectroscopical (fluorescence) and optical technologies allowed the development of sub-wavelength microscopes, so-called super fluorescent technologies, allowing for the determination of those cellular structures and interactions at a precision that was not known before. They do not invalidate Abbe’s law, but they offer some revolutionary ideas which are much more than just workarounds. They make a resolution far beyond the wavelength of the visible light a reality. The review article by Kempe et al. gives a comprehensive overview of these new approaches to far field microscopy and their pros and cons.

While one direction of the development of microscopes always went towards higher resolution, another one is directed to new devices that can look into tissue. That is an old dream and even if it is just a few millimeters it might already save lives or the patient’s vision. The availability of sophisticated lasers, and advanced computing and camera hardware allowed for the development of OCT technology, which enables medical doctors to examine the spatial structures of living tissue such as human retina in vivo with a resolution below 10 microns. The latest technological developments as described in the paper by Lankenau et al. resulted in an iOCT device that can even be used during operations attached to commercial microscopes. The article by Vandersmissen et al. goes one step further into the details of technical development and discusses the latest progress in OCT-detector technology.

This is just a very small glimpse of current developments in microscopy technology. We will follow this topic in the future and continue to publish articles on the latest trends in optical technology for microscopy as shown in this issue’s focus topic.

Furthermore, we will establish a more general section of articles beside the focus section. Advanced Optical Technologies has proven itself as a platform for publications on current trends in optics with eight different focus issues to date, covering topics from various fields of optics: components (plastic optics, micro-optics, imaging sensors/cameras), optical design, and applications (lithography, material processing). Now we would like to publish articles from all these fields of applied optics along with one focus topic in each issue of Advanced Optical Technologies. The idea behind this is to widen our perspective and to publish continuously on relevant trends in optical technologies. You, as a reader, are invited to contribute your knowledge as an article. Looking at the download statistics, the new format of the Tutorial section has proven most successful, many of which went immediately into our list of most downloaded articles. For more information on publishing opportunities in Advanced Optical Technologies you may refer to our website or contact the editorial team directly at .

Finally we would like to thank Ulrich Sander (Leica Microsystems AG, Heerbrugg, Switzerland) and Alberto Diaspro (Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, UNIGE, Genoa, Italy) for their support in the preparation of this focus issue.

Published Online: 2013-05-27
Published in Print: 2013-06-01

©2013 by THOSS Media & De Gruyter Berlin Boston

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