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EPSRC CDT in Sensor Technologies for a Healthy and Sustainable Future



An open-source optical projection tomography system

The second cohort of Sensor CDT students has been set the challenge of developing a 3D optical projection tomography (OPT) system to image biological samples.

The brief

The brief was to build an open source optical projection tomography (OPT) setup for less than £5000. OPT allows to image transparent (biological) samples approximately the size of a sugar cube in 3D with a resolution of a few micrometers. A commercial system has been available a few years ago from Bioptonics and an open source setup has subsequently been published. Both system, however, are substantially more expensive than the one designed in this Team Challenge.


This 15 week interdisciplinary project drew on the collective, broad knowledge base of the 2016 student cohort whose backgrounds covers many natural sciences and engineering disciplines.

The students were supported by a diverse group of mentors from industry and academia, who provided practical guidance on technical issues and project management as well as assistance during biological sample preparation.


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Together the students designed and implement a research standard OPT system to address scientific questions in the areas of biology, physiology and medicine.

The setup was designed using an open source approach and avoiding proprietary hardware or software. After fully characterising their optical projection tomography setup the students were able to take high resolution images of transparent and fluorescent biological samples, such as C. elegans and organoids.

Future work

The students will present their work at the Sensors Day 2016 conference and then publish their results in the scientific literature. Design information will be published enabling interested researcher to build their own system.


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