Zooming in on the winner of an ioLight portable microscope

Laboratory News recently ran a competition to win an ioLight portable microscope by identifying three laboratory quality images taken with our digitally connected iPhone pocket microscope. The images were published in three successive issues of the magazine and the competition winner was revealed last week. If you want to learn more about the microscope there is a great video describing it in our crowdfunding pitch here.

The only clues entrants were given were that they were all objects that you find around the house, and the field of view was 1 mm wide. It is amazingly difficult to identify even everyday objects when you look at them in microscopic detail. Even a seemingly boring piece of metal or plastic has amazing detail when you look at it with the high resolution microscope, and if you ever get to look at just a simple leaf, you will be really surprised at all the detail you are normally completely unaware of. Look at the images below, find a similar object around your house and then see if you can work out exactly which part of the object the picture is showing!

The first image was of an embossed number on a credit card:

Embossed number of credit card viewed under microscope. ioLight pocket microscope

The second image was a tea bag:

Tea bag view under microscope. ioLight pocket microscope

And the final image was not a space invaders game, but in fact was an LCD screen on a smart phone:

Smart phone screen view with a microscope. ioLight pocket microscope

The winner was Adrian Rogers, who is already out and about using his field microscope! He is already posting images to social media direct from the iPhone that he uses with the microscope. We liked his tweet of a picture of a ‘lateral flow device’ taken with the microscope, which really shows off the 1 micron resolution. Pregnancy tests are the most common type of lateral flow device, but when we asked if congratulation were in order, Adrian said ‘shhhh that’s how rumours start’ and explained that it was a lateral flow device for food allergen detection!

ioLight microscope competition winner

Micro-plastic particles in cosmetics cause pollution

Micro-plastic particles are often in the news. These particles, much less that 1mm in size, are now proving to be just as much of a problem for marine wild life than ‘traditional’ pollution caused by large plastic items (bags, bottles etc). Unfortunately this new pollution is invisible and you need a field microscope, such as the ioLight to see it. The tiny particles get eaten by fish and other marine life but are so small that they get lodged in the digestive system, or even absorbed into the blood stream. The particles then build up in the fish causing a variety of health problems not only to the fish, but potentially to the animals that eat the fish – including humans!

This pollution is a relatively new phenomenon and is caused by the increasing use of huge quantities of plastic micro-particles in cosmetics, including facial scrubs. The micro-particles are used as a low-cost abrasive to gently exfoliate skin. The facial scrubs are washed off the skin and go down the drain with the waste water. Because these plastic particles are so small – typically between 5-500 microns – they are not removed from the waste water by conventional sewage treatment plants, and so remain in the treated water and are discharged into the sea. Worst of all, the particles then remain floating in the sea for many years because they are made from low-cost conventional plastics that don’t biodegrade.

Using the ioLight high resolution portable microscope we can easily see these nasty particles:

Plastic micro-particles in facial scrub taken with the ioLight field microscope

Plastic micro-particles in facial scrub taken with the ioLight field microscope

The picture shows that this facial scrub (made by a very well known cosmetics company) contains several different sizes of rough plastic micro-particles. The large particles are roughly 0.5mm in size and visible to the naked eye, whereas the smallest particles are 5-10 µm and are invisible without a pocket microscope. It is these tiny fragments that are causing so many problems since they are easily eaten by fish and other marine life, but they are too small for the digestive system to excrete and so they build up in the animal causing harm.

There are a number of scientists working to quantify the effects of this new type of pollution including Prof Tamara Galoway at Exeter University, who has bought an ioLight microscope for her work. Several scientific studies have been published including this one from North Carolina State University.

After we looked at my daughter’s facial scrub with the ioLight pocket microscope, we put all of it in the dustbin to go to land fill – the lesser of two evils, when it comes to the polluting effects of these plastic micro-particles.

Bayer takes delivery of 10 ioLight microscopes

Bayer uses ioLight microscopes

Bayer takes delivery of ioLight microscopes

ioLight is delighted to announce that Bayer plc has purchased 10 microscopes for its Practice Support Advisors.

These veterinary nurses carry the compact ioLight microscopes in their bags. They are always ready to show customers how much damage parasites can do to pets and farm animals unless they are properly treated with Advocate®, Baycox® and other company products. Armed with the ioLight microscopes the team can show vets parasites such as Angiostrongylus vasorum and Eimeria bovis, which can make precious pets or valuable livestock seriously ill.

Christopher Chick, National Sales, Key Account Manager says: “Using the ioLight microscope gives our customers a clear and immediate insight into how much damage these parasites can cause and how Bayer’s Animal Health products can prevent and treat these conditions.”

Andrew Monk, Founder of ioLight, met the team at Bayer’s Berkshire headquarters for a morning’s training. The Practice Support Advisors learned how to capture brilliantly clear images and videos on their tablets and smart phones and share them with colleagues. They even took pictures of their own cells showing off the laboratory grade resolution of the compact ioLight instrument.

ioLight invites all of our friends, customers and supporters to join the company by investing in our currently crowd funding campaign at www.crowdcube.com/iolight.

The investment round is open to anybody. Investing £7,500 wins a free microscope for a school of your choice, £3,000 gets A shares with voting rights and the average investment is about £1,000. £100 is a useful contribution and just £10 moves the ioLight pitch back to the top of Crowdcube’s Investment Opportunities Page, where it will get noticed. So nobody should invest more than they can afford.

Come and meet Andrew, Richard and the microscope in London on Thursday 23rd February. Details at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/meet-the-microscope-makers-london-tickets-32188810599

Capital at Risk

Rock in a surprising place

Yesterday we demonstrated the ioLight field microscope at The University of Oxford’s Earth Sciences department. Owen Green (also fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society@RoyalMicroSoc ) had some fantastic rock samples to test the ioLight pocket microscope with, including this rather exciting one.

Sedimentary rock from summit of Everest courtesy of Owen Green, University of Oxford, Earth Sciences.  Taken with ioLight pocket microscope

We took the above image with the ioLight pocket microscope. The image is 1mm wide showing a polished section of rock.

If you are a geology expert, you will recognise this as a rather nice section through a sedimentary rock – ie one that was formed from debris that has accumulated at the bottom of the sea. This doesn’t sound that exciting until you find out where the rock sample came from – the summit of Mount Everest!  – proof that the tip of the highest mountain on earth was once at the bottom of the sea.

ioLight’s crowdfunding campaign gets of to a good start


ioLight launched  a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube yesterday, and already the total has reached 12% (£32,210) of the total (£250k). A really big thank you to all those who have invested.

If you would like to buy your own share of ioLight, please invest!

Investments carry risks, see Risk Warning

Faecal egg counting with the ioLight microscope

Parasite infections are common in cattle, sheep, horses and chickens and other animals and cause both suffering to the animal and loss of revenue for farmers. In the past farmers have often treated parasites with routine use of antimicrobial drugs (antibiotics). However extensive use of antimicrobials is causing antimicrobial resistance to build in parasites, potentially leading to untreatable infections and concerns with the antimicrobials entering the food chain and water supply.

To reduce this problem, farmers, horse owners and vets can test their animals to see if there is an infection that needs treating before giving the drugs, thus reducing unnecessary use of the drugs. This is done by counting parasite eggs in a sample of the animal faeces and then only using drugs if a significant number of disease causing parasite eggs are found.

Faecal egg counting is done by dissolving the faeces is water, adding salt solution to make the eggs float to the top, then putting a small amount of the this into a McMaster counting chamber and using a microscope to count the eggs.

Traditionally this is done be sending faeces samples to a lab and waiting for a day or 2 for the results. But using the ioLight high resolution field microscope this can be done in the field or in the back of a car thus reducing time before treatment can start and avoiding lab fees.

Below are images of parasite eggs taken with the ioLight field microscope using a McMaster chamber. The lines in the images are the counting lines on the McMaster chamber. The chamber has 10 parallel lines, 1mm apart and 10mm long – you count all the eggs between the lines multiply up by a dilution by a factor to get an estimate of the concentration of eggs in the faeces.

Faecal parasite egg in McMaster counting chamber. Taken with ioLight field microscope.

Faecal parasite egg in McMaster counting chamber. Taken with ioLight field microscope.

Faecal parasite egg in McMaster counting chamber.