DIY Blu-Ray Laser Scanning Microscope Part 2: Shooting Images

YouTube’s Doctor Volt repurposed a Blu-Ray drive, which are now easy to find on the cheap in the era of streaming content, to build a simple scanning laser microscope. A couple of custom-designed and manufactured plastic parts were added to the mix to create a scanning bed for a sample that could move back in forth in one direction, while the laser itself shifted back and forth in the other.


Unlike an optical microscope, where the entirely of an object is imaged at once, a scanning laser microscope takes light intensity measurements in increments, moving across an object in a grid and assembling a magnified image pixel by pixel. In this case, given the limitations of the Blu-Ray drive’s spindle, which moves the sample being viewed back and forth, the image is assembled from 16,129 measurements (a 127x127 grid) and then scaled up to a 512x512 image.

A browser-based user interface written in Java allows focus adjustments and the scanning speed of the microscope to be modified, but at the slowest possible speed, the results are surprisingly good and recognizable. Certainly not comparable to what you’d get from lab equipment that costs tens of thousands of dollars, but for a re-purposed Blu-Ray drive you could get for less than $20 on eBay, this is an impressive hack.

Just be careful around those lasers.