Top Ten Innovations 2011

Published on January 6, 2012 by in Technology


The Scientist Magazine has just published its annual Top 10 Innovations contest, which showcases the coolest life science tools to emerge in 2011.

These include a number of the latest advances in microscopy—from a pocket microscope that can be connected to a cell phone’s optics to tools that smash the resolution limitations of traditional scopes, a tool that measures light exposure and circadian rhythms, and a first-of-its-kind 360-degree optical imager.

Lucas, a pocket-sized microscope that weighs less than 50g, uses inexpensive, off-the-shelf parts, costs as little as $10, and can be attached to a cell phone’s camera, making it ideal for diagnosing disease in isolated, developing countries.

It illuminates cells with an inexpensive light-emitting diode, captures the shadows they cast, and then processes and recreates the image using an algorithm run on a remote computer. The translucent cells cast textured shadows that can reveal internal cell features such as malaria parasites, and can image very large areas.

Then there is the battery powered, dime-sized Dimesimeter circadian watch, which can be worn as a wristband, pendant, or pinned on clothing, may offer researchers insights into how disrupting circadian rhythms affects human physiology, behavior, and disease, and it costs $100.

The Dimesimeter contains optical sensors and accelerometers that measure both the light exposure and activity of the person wearing it. The device then transmits data wirelessly to a docking station, which can be linked to a computer.

By quantifying the amount of light that people are exposed to, it can provide new insights into a lot of diseases, and has been used in a study that determined optimal home lighting conditions to improve sleep efficiency in Alzheimer’s patients.

The Dimesimeter’s optical setup consists of red, green, and blue light detectors that measure light exposure of the subject. Through post processing, researchers can determine the amount circadian light (the light that modulates the biological clock) entering the eye.

The full story of the 2011 Top Ten Innovations, with pictures, is published on the Scientist’s website.

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