Researchers at Auburn University have designed a rechargeable microscope illumination system that can be used by NASA scientists to observe microscopic life in places where there is no electricity. The patent-pending Ilumna 120, which contains a battery pack, condenser, and bulb with a built-in collimator, attaches to standard research microscopes and produces high-resolution images. It can be powered by a normal 110- or 220-volt outlet; by an internal, rechargeable 9-volt lithium-ion battery pack; or by recharging the battery pack with a solar element when electricity is unavailable.
According to the system's inventors, Professor Vitaly Vodyanoy and research assistant Oleg Pustovyy, the device could have a number of other potential research and medical applications including pathogenic disease detection, geology studies, military battlefield uses, and use during disasters when electricity is not available. The device might also be suitable for use in underdeveloped countries and isolated agricultural areas.
NASA scientists used the Ilumna 120 on a reconnaissance expedition to the Schirmacher Oasis in Antarctica to study microbial life forms, called "extremophiles," that somehow manage to survive and sometimes even thrive in some of the most hostile environments on the planet.