Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Now Available: Innovators Under 35 2013 See The 2013 List »

Aydogan Ozcan, 30

Inexpensive chips and sophisticated software could make microscope lenses obsolete


Expensive, bulky lenses have been the basis of imaging technology for centuries. Now, says Aydogan Ozcan, an assistant professor of electrical engineering, "it's time to change our thinking." By writing sophisticated image-processing software and taking advantage of the inexpensive light sensors now ubiquitous in cell phones, he may have made lenses obsolete. The lensless imaging devices that Ozcan has built achieve roughly the same resolution as standard bench-top microscopes (about a micrometer), so they can be used to count, identify, and even image living cells.

He's made prototypes mounted in cell phones to demonstrate the technology and has started a company called Microskia to develop it. The first products are likely to be simple microscopes that plug into a cell phone or laptop through a USB cord and display the magnified images on their screens; the first uses will probably be in remote medical centers, to diagnose anemia, cancer, and infectious diseases such as malaria. According to Ozcan, though, his prototypes are actually good enough to replace the large, expensive cell counters used in U.S. hospitals. --Katherine Bourzac

1. Light Detector: A microscope slide holding a sample such as blood can be mounted here, over the phone's camera, which contains a light-detecting chip. The phone's processor runs the imaging software.

2. Light Source: The black plastic tube contains light filters and a light-emitting diode powered by the phone's batteries, but no lenses. Light shines from the tube through a sample and onto the camera's imaging chip.

3. Add-on Imaging: The imaging system can be removed for a more convenient cell-phone conversation or replaced with a light source better suited to a particular imaging application.

Credit: Christopher Harting

2009 TR35 Winners

Andrea Armani

Sensitive optical sensors detect single molecules

James Carey (video)

Using “black silicon” to build inexpensive, super-sensitive light detectors

Adam Dunkels

Minimal wireless-networking protocols allow almost any device to communicate over the Internet

Kevin Fu (video)

Defeating would-be hackers of radio frequency chips in objects from credit cards to pacemakers  

Andrew Houck

Preserving information for practical quantum computing

Shahram Izadi (video)

An intuitive 3-D interface helps people manage layers of data

Ali Javey

“Painting” nanowires into electronic circuits

Anat Levin

New cameras and algorithms capture the potential of digital images

Pranav Mistry (video)

A simple, wearable device enhances the real world with digital information

Aydogan Ozcan

Inexpensive chips and sophisticated software could make microscope lenses obsolete

Vera Sazonova

World’s smallest resonator could lead to tiny mechanical devices

Elena Shevchenko

Assembling nanocrystals to create made-to-order materials

Dawn Song

Defeating malware through automated software analysis

Andrea Thomaz (video)

Robots that learn new skills the way people do

Adrien Treuille (video)

Complex physics simulations that can run on everyday PCs


More Innovators Under 35: