Microscopic particles are difficult to see, and clearly must also be challenging to count and sort. Luckily, a technique termed flow cytometry can help out with this tough task. In a typical flow cytometer, light is focused on tiny objects, such as cells and microorganisms, as they zip by within a small tube. The resulting scattered light is measured and analyzed to help determine the type and count of each particle category. A longstanding challenge in flow cytometry is to be able to perform rapid counting at tens of thousands of counts per second, which corresponds to meters-per-second flow speeds, while still maintaining a high accuracy. In this work, Ba and colleagues present a new way to achieve high-speed, high-accuracy counting with a new setup that combines a digital micro-mirror device (DMD) and a quadrant detector. The DMD directs the scattered light from each particle to the quadrant detector, while the individual micro-mirrors are positioned to help maximize the distinguishability of each unique particle measurement. The end result is a fast and reliable technique, which hopefully can help us quickly scan and sort through ever smaller particles to aid with tasks like automated disease diagnosis and water quality assessment, to name a few.
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