Inventor of the Month - February 2017

This article was posted on: February 27, 2017

Yizheng Zhu

“Methods and Apparatus of Interferometry for Quantitative Imaging and Sensing”

The Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation recognizes Yizheng Zhu as Inventor of the Month for February 2017 for the invention “Methods and Apparatus of Interferometry for Quantitative Imaging and Sensing,” disclosed to Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties Inc.

Imagine a fertility doctor selecting the strongest specimens for in vitro fertilization based on real-time quantitative data from a microscope image.

Imagine a pathologist using a similar quantitative image to identify cancer cells without leaving the operating room. Then imagine an oncologist pinpointing just the right drug to kill that specific cancer by watching the drug’s interaction with live cell imaging, introducing no additional, potentially interfering, agents to aid visibility.

Now, imagine that all of this is done with a simple, low-cost add-on to an existing microscope aided by computer algorithms to shift from qualitative observations (conventional phase contrast PhC, differential interference contrast DIC, and polarized light PL microscopy) to quantitative data.

These are just a few examples of potential applications for the technology developed by Yizheng Zhu.

This new interferometry device can be used to quantify the complex field of a sample with low cost, simple implementation, high speed, and high sensitivity, enabling the quantification of a variety of parameters such as mass, volume, stiffness, scattering, and anisotropy, as well as their dynamics. The add-on hardware is also compatible with a wide variety of existing optical microscopes and does not affect routine observation and function, allowing for easy interfacing and upgrade. The concept could also potentially be integrated with smart phones to generate a new category of portable imaging and sensing devices. This next generation of microscopy has the potential to be applied in multiple markets, including life sciences R&D, in vitro diagnostics, metrology and materials sciences, and mobile imaging for health care.

Yizheng Zhu earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Tsinghua University in 1998 and 2000, respectively, and his Ph.D. from Virginia Tech in 2007. He returned to Virginia Tech as an assistant professor in 2012 after working on biomedical devices using fiber-optic technology as a research scientist at Duke University. Zhu has extensive experience working with industry for technology transfer and has led a number of successful clinical trials and industrial tests for prototype validation. He is working toward commercializing this invention so that his technology can be used in education, research, and industry.


Examples of quantitative multi-modal images revealing fine structure and morphology of red blood cell with parasite that causes malaria.

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