An innovative microscope technology invented by researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., has been licensed by Thorlabs Inc., a manufacturer of photonics products based in Newton, N.J. The device, called the adaptive scanning optical microscope (ASOM), provides the ability to view large areas of a sample without sacrificing image resolution and can be used to automate difficult tasks in biological laboratories, from diagnosing cancer to discovering new drugs. The technology was invented at the Center for Automation Technologies and Systems (CATS) at Rensselaer by Ben Potsaid, John Wen and Yves Bellouard, with some funding from the National Science Foundation. Thorlabs has donated equipment to CATS in the past and also supports the Smart Optics Laboratory, one of several labs at CATS where the ASOM research is continuing. The ASOM provides a larger, clearer view of a sample than other automated microscopes by scanning a mirror over a sample while a camera takes a series of high resolution snapshots. The images create a mosaic, eliminating the need to switch lenses or move the sample. Researchers solved the problem of off-axis aberrations causing blurring by employing an adaptive optic element -- a “deformable” mirror that changes shape to correct for the blurring. The device is made up of tiny microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), allowing the ASOM to operate 10-100 times faster than current automated microscopes without disturbing the specimen. The ASOM can also be programmed to bounce back and forth between tracking multiple moving objects, useful for observing live microorganisms or in monitoring microscale industrial processes. Rensselaer’s technology will initially be marketed by Thorlabs as a benchtop instrument for biological laboratories and microrobotics research. In the future, it could be used in industrial quality assurance and automated medical diagnostics.