Many surgeries that were once performed routinely can now be avoided thanks to the technology of endoscopy, which involves threading a camera deep into the body.
But the cameras are expensive and they must be cleaned extensively between uses. Now, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration in Berlin have invented a very cheap, very powerful camera that is also very small - so small, in fact, that it is no bigger than a grain of salt.
Martin Wilke, a scientist at the Fraunhofer Institute, says, - We can produce micro-cameras so inexpensively with our technology that doctors can dispose of endoscopes after using them only once.
The new micro-camera has a resolution of 62,500 pixels, meaning the images are extremely sharp. The disposable endoscope, at a cost of a few dollars, is expected to reach the market as soon as 2012.
The automobile industry is also interested in the new technology. The micro-camera could replace the side view mirrors on cars, which would reduce flow resistance and energy consumption.