Sharing the revolution in light microscopy: enhancing access, and sustainability  to empower the global research community

Modular, cost-effective, sustainable, open source microscopy


 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 their own low-cost but advanced capability instruments using modular components and open source software and to provide a cost-effective means to recycle or upgrade existing microscopes to the latest 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 recently available low-cost technology and intelligent proactive users means that advanced microscopy capabilities can be realised at much lower costs than commercial integrated systems designed for passive users (e.g. of a well-resourced microscope facility). Thus, it should be possible to greatly reduce the barrier to entry for many capable researchers in developing countries that would like to use advanced optical techniques.

openScopes is a not-for-profit enterprise that aims to help researchers, teachers and students find resources to enable them to build, upgrade and/or maintain their own microscopes for non-commercial use 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 and Shenzhen Technology University in China. openScopes builds on research funded by BBSRC, EPSRC, MRC, Research England and the Welcome Trust.  

openScopes instruments at Imperial College London

Fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM) and high content analysis (HCA)


openFLIM-HCA is an open source automated multiwell plate FLIM microscope resource combining a mManager plug-in for the control of an instrument employing wide-field time-gated imaging with a list of hardware components and experimental procedures. See the wiki for further information. 

Optical projection tomography (OPT)


 OPT is a robust and relatively inexpensive technique to acquire 3D images of intact, transparent samples - ranging from cleared tissues to live zebrafish. 

OPT can be implemented in a custom set-up or on a conventional inverted fluorescence microscope using a simple OPT adapter plate (enabling 3D imaging of samples up to 1 mm diameter.  

Single molecule localisation microscopy (SMLM)



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




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

openScopes software at Imperial College London



 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.  





HPC processing of SMLM data

We have accelerated SMLM data processing by implementing parallelised ThunderSTORM on an HPC cluster. This can be extended to any ImageJ plug-in

Our scripts can be accessed here .


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.   

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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

Collaborators and Funding