The Incubascope: a simple, compact and large field of view microscope for long-term imaging inside an incubator

R Soc Open Sci. 2022 Feb 9;9(2):211444. doi: 10.1098/rsos.211444. eCollection 2022 Feb.


Optical imaging has rapidly evolved in the last decades. Sophisticated microscopes allowing optical sectioning for three-dimensional imaging or sub-diffraction resolution are available. Due to price and maintenance issues, these microscopes are often shared between users in facilities. Consequently, long-term access is often prohibited and does not allow to monitor slowly evolving biological systems or to validate new models like organoids. Preliminary coarse long-term data that do not require acquisition of terabytes of high-resolution images are important as a first step. By contrast with expensive all-in-one commercialized stations, standard microscopes equipped with incubator stages offer a more cost-effective solution despite imperfect long-run atmosphere and temperature control. Here, we present the Incubascope, a custom-made compact microscope that fits into a table-top incubator. It is cheap and simple to implement, user-friendly and yet provides high imaging performances. The system has a field of view of 5.5 × 8 mm2, a 3 μm resolution, a 10 frames per second acquisition rate, and is controlled with a Python-based graphical interface. We exemplify the capabilities of the Incubascope on biological applications such as the hatching of Artemia salina eggs, the growth of the slime mould Physarum polycephalum and of encapsulated spheroids of mammalian cells.

Keywords: epifluorescence; incubator; open-hardware; optical microscopy.

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.5802863