Microscopy Hack Chat

Let's get small

Wednesday, June 23, 2021 12:00 pm PDT Local time zone:
Hack Chat
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Zachary Tong will host the Hack Chat on Wednesday, June 23 at noon Pacific.

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There was a time when electronics was very much a hobby that existed in the macroscopic world. Vacuum tubes, wirewound resistors, and big capacitors were all mounted on terminal strips and mounted in a heavy chassis or enclosure, and interfacing with everything from components to tools was more an exercise in gross motor skills than fine. Even as we started to shrink components down to silicon chips, the packages we put them in were still large enough to handle and see easily. It's only comparatively recently that everything has started to push the ludicrous end of the scale, with components and processes suitable only for microscopic manipulation, but that's pretty much where we are now, and things are only likely to get smaller as time goes on.

The microscopic world is a fascinating one, and the tools and techniques to explore it are often complex. That doesn't mean microscopy is out of the wheelhouse of the average hacker, though. Zachary Tong, proprietor of the delightfully eclectic Breaking Taps channel on YouTube, has been working in the microscopic realm a lot lately. We've featured his laser scanning confocal microscope recently, as well as his latest foray into atomic force microscopy. In the past he has also made DIY acrylic lenses, and he has even tried his hand at micromachining glass with lasers.

Zach is pretty comfortable working in and around the microscopic realm, and he'll stop by the Hack Chat to share what he's been up to down there. We'll talk about all the cool stuff going on in Zach's lab, and see what else he has in store for us.

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 2

    Dan Maloney06/23/2021 at 20:08 0 comments

    Ahron Wayne12:43 PM
    This one?

    Dan Maloney12:43 PM
    I wasn't going to this time, I swear!

    Patrick Hickey12:43 PM
    @polyfractal greeting from scotland. I recently salvaged a biorad radiance 2100 confocal, currently trying to source a solid state laser to replace the argon ion laser, any recommendations for a 488nm module supplier?

    Ahron Wayne12:44 PM
    with "only" 60,000 views and 200 comments, one of whom is applied science guy? :)

    polyfractal12:44 PM
    yep that one @Ahron Wayne! the results weren't great, but it was a fun project and with some tweaking i think it could work.

    And yeah it gained a bunch of traction in the last few months thanks to the big influx of traffic, but it was a "dud" for a very long time which can be demoralizing if you let it get to you :)

    polyfractal12:45 PM
    @Patrick Hickey oh nice! congrats! afraid I don't have any that come to mind, 488nm is a bit of an oddball wavelength. tbh I do most of my scavenging from ebay too so dont know many real vendors :)

    Ahron Wayne12:46 PM
    I'll add that one to my watch later then, and it answers my question as to whether you'll turn your attention to metal printing.

    polyfractal12:46 PM
    is the argon laser dead, or just don't want the hassle of big inefficient gas laser?

    Ahron Wayne12:47 PM
    If you're actually trying to repair/use the laser Sam's laserfaq is a great source:

    polyfractal12:47 PM
    @Ahron Wayne heh. I do have some vague plans to work on SLA + nanoparticles + sintering. not quite direct metal printing but roundabout way to get there. ditto to ceramics. Mostly boils down to small enough particles and keeping them colloidal, which usually needs some extra chemistry to work (e.g. alumina will remain suspended in resin if you add some citric acid)

    Patrick Hickey12:49 PM
    cool, thanks @polyfractal i found a good supplier based in poland “lambdawave” they have many flavours of lasers, arduino controllable and low prices. Hope to connect with you in future! Patrick

    polyfractal12:50 PM
    related to that old lattice video actually, i'm currently working on some new electroforming projects, building up a really thick deposit on 3D prints for functional reasons. we'll see if it works out for the particular project, but feels underutilized by hobbyists :)

    Thomas Shaddack12:50 PM
    What resin? I did some research on a now likely dead project with printing resins...

    Ahron Wayne12:50 PM
    @polyfractal please keep us updated on that. I've been working on bound metal printing with filament for the past few months and there's a huge amount of potential, but I'm especially excited about the idea of working with powders mixed with resin because you might be able to mix your own alloys and also get huge details. One company described SLA-metal powder as "like butter" being spread on the plate which presents its own challenges of course.

    Ahron Wayne12:51 PM
    @polyfractal You should definitely check out the Virtual Foundry/Bradley woods, he got started with electroforming 3D printing exactly as you're describing before he started manufacturing metal filaments.

    polyfractal12:51 PM
    @Thomas Shaddack just generic cheap SLA resin so far (elegoo maybe?). Haven't done much work on it yet, just enough to realize that particles either need chemical modification to stay in suspension, or some kind of agitator, or they need to be nano-sized. hit pause on it for a while to work on other projects

    Ahron Wayne12:52 PM
    There is also some talk in the community about debinding ceramics and other materials and then infiltrating them with metal for composites with no shrink.

    polyfractal12:52 PM
    ooh interesting, will check out Virtual Foundry!

    Thomas Shaddack12:52 PM
    I tried some localized thermal laser decomposition of copper oxide in epoxy. it indeed created copper.

    Thomas Shaddack12:52 PM
    metal matrix composites???

    Thomas Shaddack12:53 PM
    thought: MMC done by electroforming on carbon fiber.

    morgan left  the room.12:53 PM


    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Dan Maloney06/23/2021 at 20:07 0 comments

    Dan Maloney12:00 PM
    OK, looks like people are checking in now, so let's kick things off. Welcome to the Hack Chat, I'm Dan and I'll be moderating today along with Dusan. Today we're excited to welcome Zachary Tong to the Hack Chat -- you've probably seen some of his cool stuff on the Breaking Taps YT channel. Today, we're going to focus on microscopy, though. See what I did there?

    Dusan Petrovic12:00 PM
    Hello and welcome!

    Dan Maloney12:00 PM
    I'm not sure I've seen Zach log in yet, though. Are you out there yet, Zach?

    polyfractal12:01 PM
    Heya! This is Zach / Breaking Taps. :)

    Dan Maloney12:01 PM
    Oh, that's right -- forgot about the @polyfractal thing. Sorry!

    Hexastorm12:01 PM
    I looked at the laser microscopy video, it is amazing. You showen how easy it is to make.. still have you considered moving a prism or galvo to move the laser bundel?

    polyfractal12:02 PM
    Hehe yeah sorry, I'm "polyfractal" pretty much everywhere except on my YT channel :)

    Dan Maloney12:02 PM
    Can you get us started with a little about your background?

    Timo joined  the room.12:03 PM

    Lageos joined  the room.12:03 PM

    polyfractal12:03 PM
    Sure! I typed up a little background before-hand.

    So my background is actually in biology, which might be a surprise for folks that have seen some of my videos. Or maybe not, considering my poor engineering/EE skills hah. I have a degree in cell bio and worked in a wet lab for a number of years (culturing kidney and primary hippocampal neurons, running assays, etc). However for the last 10 or so years I've been in software. Most of that time working on the analytics functionality of a search engine called Elasticsearch.

    Anyhow, I started my YT channel when I picked up metalworking, and it's slowly morphed into material science and microfab stuff. As my projects have gotten "smaller" over time, I keep finding myself needing (or wanting) new ways to measure/quantify the projects. Which has led to a proliferation of microscopes in my shop :)

    To date, I have a few optical microscopes, a DIY laser confocal, a DIY "macro" atomic force microscope, a real AFM and a raman spectrometer. Contemplating building a chromatic confocal next, or maybe a white light interferometer. Definitely enjoy building instruments, even if they don't end up quite as useful as the real commercial ones :)

    Peter Braubach joined  the room.12:05 PM

    polyfractal12:06 PM
    @Hexastorm Thanks! Yeah, considering some options to speed it up if I ever do v2. A galvo seems like a good approach, and you can get them pretty cheap (metal etching fiber lasers use them, so they are relatively mass-produced and cheap). A bunch of folks suggested CD/DVD optical units as an option too, which basically has all the guts pre-built and you just have to interface with it

    perlsackhd12:06 PM
    Are you planning on realeasing the code for your LSM?

    morgan joined  the room.12:06 PM

    polyfractal12:07 PM
    @perlsackhd I wasnt originally but a bunch of folks have asked, so I'm currently compiling to throw on github somewhere. Need to find a RPi that i've temporarily misplaced :) The code is quite poor though, just quick bodges to get it working and interface with OpenFlexure (i hacked a new endpoint onto their server code)

    Dan Maloney12:07 PM
    A couple of links for reference, in case you haven't seen them:

    Dan Maloney12:07 PM


    3D-Printed Laser Scanning Confocal Microscope Measures Microns

    When one thinks about microscopy, it seems to be mostly qualitative. Looking at a slide teeming with bacteria or protozoans is less about making measurements and more about recognizing features and describing their appearance. Not all microscopes are created equal, though, with some being far more optimized for making fine measurements of the microscopic realm.

    Read this on Hackaday

    Dan Maloney12:08 PM

    Read more »

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Prof. Jim Brenner wrote 06/15/2022 at 21:20 point

488 nm isn't that unusual.  It is a cyan laser.  It is less common than about five or six more common wavelengths, but you can buy such a laser for $70 on EBay.  I use one for my polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing.

Are you interested in modifiying your confocal laser scanning microscope to have an enclosure and variable magnetic and electric fields.  Ultimately I would like to see a hybrid of either a confocal laser scanning microscope or nanoparticle tracking analyzer with controlled electric and magnetic fields so that I and others can see cells migrating in the presence of growth and differentiation factors to eventually form tissues?

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