Frequently Asked Questions
Updated August 8, 2014
NOTE: We are currently changing our range of microscopes to the new SeeNano series. During this period (August-October), we cannot supply any new microscope systems and can only give limited info on the new range.
1. Who developed these microscopes?
The microscopes were originally developed by a german engineer who will be 80 in 2014 and no longer wishes to be named online. He is an expert in several disciplines and invented a range of microscopes from 1972 to 2014. We now work with his engineer who has had decades of experience in designing and building such microscopes, especially for industrial applications.
2. I have seen that some manufacturers are now using software to create higher depth of field, how does this compare with the SeeNano Microscopes?
Many manufacturers, and software companies are offering software techniques to allow multiple images to be joined together to give an apparent extended depth of field. The images created by such software systems are approximations of how the object looks as they consist of a series of images reprocessed to form one. Although some systems can even process such images in real time, the image so formed can only be an approximation as it is made up of muliple images at various focus settings, that have been taken and then electronically processed into one 3D image. As the Grayfield Lens System, used in our microscopes, provides extended and variable depth of field through an entirely optical method, you see the specimen as it really is - not an approxomation, the real thing, measurable and in real time. Additionally, our system does not require staining, oil immersion or any other processes harmful to biological samples and the specimens are seen in their natural colors.
3. Why is it that I have not heard of these microscopes before?
Until 2002, the inventor only used his microscopes internally for his consulting services in Germany. While these microscopes have been known to industry and many universities in Germany for over 30 years, only a little information had been released in English previously due to the fact that the inventor does not speak English and the existing research was performed mainly in Germany (in German). Grayfield Optical has taken on the task of translating his materials into English and marketing a range of optical products, based on his inventions, to the rest of the world in the English language. As we are still only a small company catering for a specialist market, we are not as well known as the major microscope manufactures. As of August 2014, we are now working directly with his engineer to create a new range of microscopes that have the same technologies and more, yet are to be sold at more competetive prices.
4. What research has been done using the microscopes?
The microscopes were initially used as a service to many companies (primarily the paper, plastics, automotive and electronics industries in Germany) to help solve their problems. One example is the paper industry, where he developed a color code system for paper quality, by measuring the impurities in the raw pulp. Many medical breakthroughs have also been achieved using the microscopes.
5. Are there any similar microscopes provided by other manufacturers?
Gaston Naessens and Tim Richardson (both in Canada) developed optical microscopes with impressive capabilities, yet neither of their systems are currently being marketed, to the best of our knowledge (Richardson Technologies marketed the RTM-3. However their company has unfortunately folded in 2004). Prof. Stefan W. Hell developed the STED system and Keyence has developed a 3D-Laser microscope with high resolution.
Other microscope researchers are now claiming resolutions in the sub 100nm range, but without the depth of field and color contrast, etc. so critical when observing biological samples.
The Grayfield series of microscopes are the only microscopes to deliver such high resolution images in real time with increased (variable) depth of field, full color contrast even at such resolutions in natural colors so essential in much of today research to obtain meaningful analysis that can image live biological samples for prelonged periods without damaging them.
6. What advantage would I have with one of the Grayfield Microscopes?
One medical research facility in Europe has reported being able to complete an estimated 3 years of cellular research work in 6 months due to the significant advantages of using our chambers and microscopes to observe living cultures in real time at high resolutions. It is possible to grow cultures in chambers and observe the effects of injecting medicines into the chamber while observing the effect in real time in vitro. This allows meaningful results to be obtained in less than an hour, impossible to do any other way and greatly reduces the need (if at all) for animal testing.
If you are currently using Darkfield microscope systems for viewing living samples, you will find the images provided by our grayfield system significantly more detailed and with full color contrast.
7. When will I be able to read research papers using such microscopes?
As most of the research work has been done for industrial applications under non-disclosure agreements, there are only a limited number of German language papers available. As these microscopes slowly finds their way into research institutions, you can expect to see more research papers soon. A number of the organizations using our services see there investment in these microscopes as their competitive advantage, and would rather use it to develop advanced products and capitalize on their advantage over traditional science.
8. What is the maximum depth of field achievable?
The SeeNano microscopes feature variable depth of field from 0 to about 40x that normally achievable with conventional optical microscopes. This is easy to operate via the use of an additional lever on the microscope. Please note that our system works optically (not computer combined images, etc.) in real time while maintaining maximum aperture on the objective and full resolution thereby avoiding the pitfalls closing the aperture would have, which would result in reduced brightness and resolution.
9. How can you resolve 100nm optically, bearing in mind the wavelength of light, etc?
Although the exact working principle is a trade secret, we can tell you that such magnifications have not been achieved by just adding more powerful lenses (which would not work for the reasons normally given). Instead, the entire light optical path has been redesigned and optimised in a unique way where under certain very specific conditions, the limitations in resolution simply do not apply. This allows for significantly higher resolutions, greater working distances (1-3mm) and variable depth of field. In fact most optical microscopes could have significantly better resolution if the same principles were applied. The theoretical resolution limit in 10nm, althouth it would cost millions to create such a microscope to that resolution. Under ideal conditions in our lab using prototype equipment, we have managed to achieve a practical resolution of about 50nm. Our SeeNano Pro system can resolve <100nm when viewing test slides.
We use a combination of a unique illumination system using parallel light that never crosses (unlike Koehler illumination for example) and an improved light path through the specially adapted GLS lenses which are in part responsible for the improved capabilities. The SeeNano microscopes use top quality Nikon objectives that have been modified to our specifications. The combination of all these factors (and a couple of others not mentioned here) allow the SeeNano microscopes to achieve what they do. It is not so much that we achieve a higher magnification as normally defined, it is the much higher true resolution we can achieve that allows us to enlarge the images captured on film or digital cameras to a much greater extent while still resolving more detail. Our Grayfield system allows you to see the fine details with color contrast and depth of field which are otherwise impossible to see.
10. Are there any scientific papers or patents that can be read that explain how these microscopes work?
The GLS technology is the result of over 30 years of development work, which has all been privately financed. If we were to place this knowledge into the public domain, it would be the big optical companies that would benefit from this innovation with little or no recompense to the inventor.
We have often been asked if we have patented the technology and if not, why not. Although parts of the technology used have been patented, patents have been shown in many cases to not always protect the inventor without vast sums of money being spent on lawyers and patents do not protect worldwide. In order to ensure that our team are also the ones to benefit from the sales of this technology, it was decided NOT to place this knowledge in the public domain by applying for a patent.
Grayfield Optical Inc has been formed to directly handle the sales and marketing of these microscopes that are built using this technology. The exact workings of this technology will remain the confidential intellectual property of our associated engineers.
11. What are the advantages of the new SeeNano range?
Previous versions of these microscopes have been using a white light source almost exclusively. Although we have been obtaining excellent high quality images in full color and high contrast with the existing system, many researchers need to have flouresence as an option in their research. As this was not possible before, many potential customers have been asking us to make this possible in our new range. We have been working on this since 2011 and will be releasing some images on this website shortly. Additionally, we have been working on the use of modern manufacturing techniques to help streamline production, ensure reliable quality and faster production while reducing costs to a level that should be widely affordable.
If your question has not been answered on the many pages of this website, please contact us directly. You will find full contact details under About Us / Contact.