Optical microscopy and metrology underpin a huge fraction of research in the physical and life sciences. Furthermore, light microscopy is an essential element of histopathology, the gold standard for clinical diagnosis for a wide range of medical conditions. In recent decades, light microscopy, in particular, has been revolutionised by a combination of new labelling techniques, new photonics technology and new imaging techniques that provide unprecedented spectroscopic data and temporal and spatial resolution.
Unfortunately, but not inevitably, these step-change capabilities currently tend to be concentrated in well-resourced laboratories and the cost of purchasing and maintaining state-of-the-art commercial instrumentation is beyond many researchers. The rapid advances in technology have also resulted in expensive instruments becoming obsolete more quickly than before, with superior models often being released on a few year time scale. This trend is challenging research funding in affluent nations and leads to undesirable waste as old microscopes are discarded or relegated to under-use, rather than being upgraded. In less affluent communities, research infrastructure and capabilities can fall behind as it becomes impossible to obtain parts or service agreements for old instruments that formerly represented major landmark investments. Furthermore, less affluent countries may be unable to afford service contracts and so commercial instruments may have a short working life if they cannot be maintained locally.
openScopes aims to enable users to assemble, maintain and upgrade their own low-cost but advanced capability instruments using modular components and open source software, and also to provide a cost-effective means to recycle or upgrade existing microscopes to advanced imaging capabilities (e.g. super resolution, 3-D imaging, high throughput...). We hope that openScopes instruments are also useful for training in advanced microscopy techniques and teaching microscopy.
Developing and maintaining software is a major cost for commercial providers of integrated microscope systems and contributes to the high cost of purchasing and supporting advanced commercial microscopes. The availability of open source software, combined with low-cost photonics technologies, enable intelligent proactive users to implement advanced microscopy capabilities at significantly lower upfront costs compared to purchasing commercial integrated systems designed for more passive/less technology-orientated users (e.g. of well-resourced microscope facilities) . Thus, it should be possible to reduce the barrier to entry for capable researchers in lower-resourced laboratories who would like to use advanced microscopy techniques but who cannot afford to purchase or maintain commercial instruments with the desired functionality. However, just as open-source software is not "free software", in the sense that it requires investment in personnel with sufficient expertise to make it work, so openScopes instrumentation should not be seen as simply a cheaper alternative to advanced commercial microscopes - openScopes users need to make the investment in personnel able to implement, maintain and operate the open-source instruments.
openScopes aims to freely share resources, including CAD files, component lists and instructions complementing open-access publications to help researchers, teachers and students build, upgrade and/or maintain their own microscopes using open source tools. It is an initiative of the Photonics Group at Imperial College London, already collaborating with the Francis Crick Institute, the IIT Guwahati in India, Shenzhen Technology University in China and the University of Cape Town in South Africa. openScopes builds on research funded by BBSRC, EPSRC, MRC, Research England, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Wellcome Trust.
As part of our CZI supported openScopes Africa programme, we are holding an online workshop 1300-1630 UTC to present experiences to date with openFrame-based microscopes in Cape Town, Guwahati and London. This will be followed by an in-person workshop in Cape Town in July 2024.
Please check our openScopes Africa web page for details.
We have developed a wide-field open source FLIM platform based on time-gated imaging using a gated optical image intensifier. FLIM data acquisition is managed by openFLIM-GOI, a MicroManager plug-in and we provide a description of hardware components here. See the wiki for further information.
We have applied time-gated wide-field imaging to realise an open source automated multiwell plate FLIM microscope for HCA. This open source implementation combines a MicroManager plug-in, openFLIM-HCA, for the control of an instrument with a list of hardware components and experimental procedures. See the wiki for further information.
OPT is a robust and relatively inexpensive technique to acquire 3D images of intact, transparent samples - ranging from cleared tissues to live zebrafish.
We have developed a low-cost modular approach to SMLM that we call easySTORM. This utilises low-cost multimode diode lasers for excitation and provides, e.g. dSTORM images, with fields of view up to ~125x125 microns. It can be implemented on existing fluorescence microscopes or on our openFrame system. For further details, please click here.
We have developed a low-cost modular microscope platform that can be adapted to different modalities. We intend it to be useful for researchers developing their own micrscopy concepts, for lower resourced communities to implement and maintain their own advanced microscope systems and to serve as an open platform for a range of stakeholders. Form more information, please go to our openFrame web page
FLIMfit is a software tool and an OMERO client for the analysis and visualisation of fluorescence lifetime data including from time-correlated single photon counting (TCSPC) and wide-field time-gated imaging. It can incorporate image segmentation and enables highly efficient global fitting of FLIM data to complex decay models, across hundreds of fields of view. This makes it useful to analyse time series or multiwell plate FLIM data.
The material presented on this website is for researchers wishing to build their own microscope systems at their own risk. No warranty is offered or implied. Implementing these instruments will require significant expertise and attention mst be paid to laser safety during set up and during use.
If you would like to highlight your open source microscopy work, software or instrumentation on this website, please contact us.
Physics Department, Imperial College London, London, England SW7 2AZ, United Kingdom