The cheaposcope: development of a low cost fluorescence microscope.

Over the last decade, biofluorescent proteins have revolutionised the study of biological processes. New genetic techniques allow the precise decoration of tissues or sub-cellular compartments with intrinsically fluorescent proteins. Gene expression and other dynamic events can be directly observed in living organisms, using fluorescence microscopy.

The ease of use of these fluorescent markers makes them especially suitable for use in teaching. Yet most undergraduate practical teaching in plant sciences does not make significant use of fluorescent proteins and most students are aware of them only through images presented in lectures. Hence there is a growing gap between practices in research laboratories and the methods used by undergraduates in their courses. This is largely because of the unavailability of cheap and robust confocal microscopes suitable for undergraduate use. While a high quality transmitted light microscope can be purchased for around £1000 in the UK, the cheapest fluorescence microscope will cost around 4-5 times that amount (£1000 or more for the microscope, >£1500 for lamp and power supply, £1000-£1500 for the illuminator, and £500 or more for each filter block).

We've exploited recent developments in LED technology, optical filters and cameras in an attempt to construct cheaper instruments for fluorescence microscopy and detection. The following pages describe our ongoing attempts - and hope that some may find the details useful.

Luxeon Lumiled LEDs as light sources for fluorescence microscopy.

Heatsinks for the LEDs

Design and construction of an LED based condenser and illuminator.

Low cost optical filters and housing for GFP detection.

Video microscopy using low cost surveillance cameras.