References - Grayfield Optical Inc - High Resolution Optical Microscopes

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In 1976, Kurt Olbrich founded the "Institute for Interdisciplinary Basic Reseach" and developed a number of new Ergonom microscopes in order to back up his consultancy work. Based in Mossatal-Hiltersklingen, a small town in the Oden forrest (Odenwald) north east of Heidelberg in Germany, he provided technical and scientific research services for a number of mainly German based companies, institutions and medical reseach labs. Notable organisations that have been using his services include Daimler Benz, BMW, Volkswagen/Audi, NASA, IBM, BKA (German CSI), University of Heidelberg, to name just a few.

As discussed in the History, the Ergonom microscopes were not sold (with very few exceptions) until 2002. Before then, the microscopes were used within the Institute for Interdisciplinary Basic Research in Germany by Kurt Olbrich and his team on behalf of their numerous customers.
As Kurt Olbrich has a background in industry, most of the work done was on contract with companies in the automotive, plastics, metal and electronic industries with only very limited research in the field of medicine. Most of the work done was on contract to industry and state research agencies and subject to non-disclosure agreements.

As Kurt Olbrich did not speak English, most of his work was done for German speaking organizations and the references are therefore often in German.
A major breakthrough was made with the development of the Ergonom 400 microscopes during 1976 (in fact he built several different versions of the Ergonom 400 as shown in the history).

These microscopes made use of the Grayfield method, a new technology developed by Kurt Olbrich, which enables unstained samples to be seen not as outlines, but as clear sharp images with full color contrast even at high resolutions. The image detail obtainable with this method allows the viewing of live biological samples in a quality never seen before. Although these older microscopes were difficult and complicated to use, the capabilities of these microscopes, along with the ingeniuty of Kurt Olbrich in solving difficult problems, led to his institute gaining the reputation of being able to solve problems, nobody else could.

Many scientific reseachers in Germany often say: "if your research has come to a dead end - go to Olbrich!".

Kurt Olbrich has obtained many honours over the years, yet he prefered to play it all down and did not actually use any of his titles with his name. He was Germany's top expert for plastics and was well renowned for his research work on legionaries disease (the video can be seen in English in the Video section) and cancer (with Bernhard Muschlien).  In 1986, Kurt Olbrich was the first person to film the HIV virus as part of a research contract for a medical research organisation in Berlin.
We offer the following references as an example of the many organizations that have used the services provided by Kurt Olbrich in the past.

Dr. Gary Greenberg, PhD

Dr. Gary L. Greenberg, Ph. D.

Kurt Olbrich has sold over 20 of his "Olbrich 4000" microscopes (based on the Ergonom 400) to various research organisations throughout the world. After writing this reference, Dr. Gary Greenberg, PhD arranged for the purchase of such a microscope for use at the University College London, Dept. of Anatomy and Developmental Biology. They have reported that the greater resolution and magnification possible allows them to greatly reduce research time.

A video including their research work can be seen in the Video section.

Craniofacial Biology

September 7, 1988

Dear Mr. Olbrich,
Once again, I want to thank you and your lovely wife for your gracious hospitality during my recent visit. Since December 1987, when I first saw your video tape presentation, I have had a keen interest in the Ergonom 400 Microscope.  Thus, I wish to thank you again for giving me the opportunity to explore with you some potential applications of the Ergonom 400 in different areas of biomedical science. After working with you for four days with the Ergonom 400, I would like to relate my initial reactions to you.

  My general impression is that you are developing a "new generation" light microscope system that will surpass the capabilities of existing state of the art microscopes. Your original approach to optical design, mechanical design and lighting technique has resulted in a very unique optical microscope system. You are successfully addressing many important features in the development of your microscope, including 1) flexibility of lighting and optics, 2) high resolution, 3) color contrast response, 4) adjustable depth of focus, and 5) the ability to produce images from the middle of thick preparations.  You have already made many breakthroughs in comparison to existing technology, and I feel that your current developments will enhance and expand these features.

Your design incorporates several types of optical systems along with several types of lighting options (transmitted, reflected and mixed lighting). This allows control of a wide range of options, so that the informational quality of the image can be optimized for a given type of preparation.  Each combination of lighting and optics appears to have specific advantages for looking at different kinds of preparations. I wish that we had the time to examine more of my preparations with more of your optical techniques; I must admit that I saw only the tip of the iceberg in terms of its capabilities and potential applications. I was very impressed with your development of the "gray-field optical system"; it is outstanding in terms of its resolution, its depth of focus, and its color contrast response. It produces the most extraordinary and unique images!  I am fascinated by the potential informational value these images contain. Our examination of the living cell cultures has convinced me that your gray-field technique should have significant applications for the biomedical sciences, by allowing scientists to view living tissues with greater clarity and precision.

In closing, I feel that I have only begun to explore the unique capacities of the Ergonom 400. I look forward to the opportunity for further collaborations to pursue its biomedical applications.

Sincerely, Dr. Gary L. Greenberg* Ph.D.

University of Southern California, University Park - DEN 4242, Los Angeles, California 90080-0641

Prof. Gerd Binning

Prof. Gerd Binning (Nobel prize for Physics in 1986 for the scanning tunneling microscope) made extensive use of the Ergonom 400 in the early 1990s where he said:

"Dear Mr. Olbrich,

I was very impressed by the results you achieved with your Ergonom microscope.
In particular, the variable depth of field with excellent image quality enables investigations that, to my knowledge, would not be possible at all with other light microscopes.

I wish you good luck in your further work.

Yours sincerely

Gerd Binnig"

(Click on image on left to see the original German letter)

Dr. Dr. Kurt S. Zänder, Professor for Immunology (Witten/Herdecke)

Dr. Dr. Kurt S. Zänker
Prof. for Immunology
Witten/Herdecke University

Adjunct Professor
McGill-University Montreal

Kurt Olbrich was also involved in medical research work in colaboration with Bernhard Muschlien as well as numerous researchers at the University of Heidelberg, Germany.

In 1993, the Erlangen and Witten/Herdecke Universities (Germany) tested the Ergonom 400 microscope in the field of Immunology. Dr. U. G. Randoll (Erlangen) and Dr. Dr. Kurt S. Zänder, Professor for Immunology (Witten/Herdecke) conducted the tests and wrote a short expertise of their findings where for example Dr. Dr. Prof. Zänder commented that

"Both the resolution and the depth of field are significantly better than existing light microscopes when observing cell preparations (cell cultures)."


In cooperation with Mr. K. Olbrich, we were able to gain experience in the biological application of his new light optical microscope system. The preliminary results we have achieved so far, in cooperation with the University of Erlangen (Dr. U. G. Randoll), can be summarised as follows:

1. Both the resolution and the depth of field are significantly better than existing light microscopes when observing cell preparations (cell cultures).
2. A further advantage, when compared with existing light microscopes, is that native, unstained preparations, like smear tests or biopsies (living cell samples from patients), could be directly examined in a new previously unseen dimension, where for the first time, even the non-balanced thermodynamic expectations of modern cell biological diagnostics could be fulfilled.
3. The Ergonom 400 allows the immediate observation of unprepared preparations (e.g. by staining, fluorescence, or sputter), it however does not exclude such methods. The spatial resolution lies in the range of a mid-range Scanning Electron Microscope.

The microscope and ultra-structure tomography system (living preparations can be focussed through layer by layer where each layer is shown sharply), that has been developed by Kurt Olbrich, is an innovative contribution to the development of imaging systems. Mr. Olbrich has made this development in an admirably persistent and purposeful way. This development might be unique in the area of microscopy at this time.

The Ergonom technology closes the gap, for the various scientific areas of research and development, between the top light microscopes and scanning electron microscopy. It is to be expected that, through the implementation of the various Ergonom range (of microscopes) in cell biology, virology and in cancer research, a considerable gain in knowledge can be achieved in the shortest time.

Through the advantages of native observation and the cellular tomography, a significant contribution has been made in order to reduce animal testing in the areas of pharmacology and environmental toxicology.
It must also be emphasised that the work with such microscopes will lead to a considerable requirement for research in regard to the accompanying results.

Witten 5th Feb. 1993

Dr. Dr. Kurt S. Zänker, Prof. for Immunology
Witten/Herdecke University
Adjunct Professor, McGill-University Montreal, Canada
(Translation of the original German text. Click on image to see the original)

Institute for Immunology
Witten/Herdecke University
Prof. Dr. K. S. Zänker
Stockumer Str. 10
58453 Witten

Certificate of the German Plastics Association

Until recently (he has now retired from that job), Kurt Olbrich was a German state authorized consultant for analysis of plastics.

On September 29th, 1987 he received a certificate honoring his work from the German plastics association.
Here is a translation of that certificate (click on image to see the original):


Kurt Olbrich
(The town where he resides)

is being honored by the foam plastics section of the Plastics Processing Industry Association.

The achievement of the bearer of this certificate consists in the fact that through further development of the optical microscope, he provided meaningful information from microstructures and fillers in foamed plastics, which was not achievable with conventional microscopes and with SEM photographs.

Frankfurt/Main, 29th September 1987
The Director
Prof. H. Baumann

© Copyright 1976-2022: Grayfield Optical, Inc.
© 1976-2017: Grayfield Optical, Inc.
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