Groundbreaking basic research at the Institute for Biologically Inspired Materials (BIMat), financed by the FWF project P 27544-N28, has led to dramatic improvements in holographic phase-contrast microscopy. This technique allows us to characterize and track weakly scattering objects at high time-resolution in 3D, without prior knowledge of their shape or size.
We record interference patterns of light scattered by individual bacteria, emulsion droplets, or colloidal particles. During the post-processing of the data, we use mathematic tricks to generate 3D phase-contrast images. All the information of all the objects in the volume of view comes from a single holographic exposure that is part of a movie. Thus, it is possible to track these objects in 3D at a speed that is limited by the camera.
AWS provides financial support to build a prototype of what we call Holographic Phase Contrast Micro Cytometry. We will streamline the recording of holograms of particulates in liquid flows and build a dedicated GPU cluster to analyze the images in real-time. This will give an unprecedented wealth of information on tangible properties of individual particulates, micro-organisms, or cells. The information we can derive includes mass, size, and shape, as well as dynamic properties such as diffusivity (hydrodynamic radius) and sedimentation.
Dr. Peter van Oostrum and Prof. Erik Reimhult from the Institute for Biologically Inspired Materials now work on the further development and eventually the commercialization of the intellectual property developed for this new instrument with applications in life sciences, medicine, food industry and other sectors where the label-free characterization of colloidal objects are essential.