Here, we look at how optical microscopes are currently used and what novel applications have recently emerged. We also explore the current global market, its size, and what may drive it in the coming years. Finally, we reflect on how the market of optical microscopy may develop in the future and what it might look like at the end of the decade.
The optical microscope has been used by scientists for hundreds of years. In the 1600s, animal and plant tissue, human blood cells and sperm cells, minerals, and fossils were imaged at unprecedented levels with some of the world’s first microscopes, giving scientists a window into the biology of plants and animals that had never before been accessible. The microscope has helped to advance the field of science drastically over the centuries, and today, although newer and more powerful types of microscopes have been developed, optical microscopy remains relevant and important to scientific discovery.
Application Areas of Optical Microscopes
Optical microscopy is frequently used in numerous fields of science. Potentially its most important use has been in medical science. Optical microscopy has emerged as an important tool for viewing and analyzing biological samples in order to make medical diagnoses. The optical microscope is also commonly found in research laboratories across the globe, particularly in those researching developmental biology, cell biology, and botany. The field of criminal forensics also uses optical microscopes in numerous applications.
Hot Topics in Optical Microscopes
In 2019, the SARS-Cov-2 virus began spreading with ferocity across China, and by March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the virus a pandemic after it had spread globally. In a bid to control the spread of the virus, scientists were in a race to understand it better. Optical microscopes played an important role in furthering our knowledge of the novel SARS-Cov-2 virus. In 2020, scientists at the National Chemical Laboratories (CSIR-NCL) used optical microscopes to reveal the three-dimensional ultrastructure of cells from human airways following infection with the virus. The research was important in terms of learning how to identify covid-19 infections. This spotlight on the value of optical microscopes in viral research has accelerated their use in this field.
Current Global Market of Optical Microscopes
The current global market for optical microscopes is valued at roughly $3 billion. Between 2022 and 2030 the market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5%, reaching a valuation of $4.4 billion by the end of the decade. Sales of stereo microscopes are predicted to increase at a rate slightly faster than the market average, at 5.3% from 2022 to 2030.
Optical microscopes will continue to be important tools for the study of the biological structure of cells. Anticipated advancements in optical microscope technology will help to advance the field, particularly following the role they played in the detection of the COVID-19 virus.
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Over the next decade, North America is expected to dominate the global market due to the strong focus on research and development in this region as well as the presence of key players and significant investment. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), for example, announced during the Covid-19 pandemic that it would be providing $32 million in funding to promote biomedical imaging research and technological improvement in the field of bioimaging.
Asia Pacific will also be an important region in the optical microscope field. It is predicted that the market in this region will increase at a high CAGR through to 2030. Expansion in Asia Pacific can be attributed to the presence of top manufacturers in Japan, China, and India. Increased demand for diagnostic centers and healthcare facilities as well as an increase in the number of research and design initiatives in the region will also act as key drivers of growth.
In Europe, Germany is considered to be the largest hub of biotechnology. Germany is home to key biotechnology businesses and state-of-the-art research facilities. Additionally, the country provides significant funding for research and development. The cutting-edge research facilities and high level of biotechnology expertise make Germany an attractive location for the optical microscope market. In 2019, German microscope manufacturer Leica Microsystems became the first in the world to get FDA approval for a blue light fluorescence filter for oncology.
Key industry players include Nikon Corporation, Danish Micro Engineering, Leica Microsystems, Hitachi High Technologies, Jeol Ltd., Olympus Corporation, KLA Tencor, Bruker Corporation, FEI company, Carl Zeiss AG, Agilent Technologies Inc., and others.
Future Directions for Optical Microscopes
The light shed on the importance of optical microscopes during the Covid-19 pandemic will likely work to encourage further advancement in the sector. Currently, many global regions have a keen interest in optical microscope technology, and there is an understanding that technological advancement and collaboration are needed in this field to enhance the capabilities of optical microscopes and allow them to be used in new applications. Over the next decade, we may see important advancements in optical microscope technology. We may also see new applications of optical microscopes emerge. This will likely be dictated by current medical needs. Certain fields of healthcare, such as diagnostics, may stand to benefit greatly from advancements in optical microscopy, although there is also a heavy focus on developing optical microscopes for research purposes.
The global optical microscopy market likely has a bright future ahead. We can expect new developments and market growth in the next decade. While newer forms of microscopy offer many benefits over optical microscopy techniques, there is a strong chance that optical microscopy will remain relevant and important, particularly if it continues to evolve and respond to the needs of the healthcare system.
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References and Further Reading
Optical Microscopes Market [online]. Fact MR. Available at: https://www.factmr.com/report/optical-microscopes-market (Last Accessed January 2023)
Putlyaeva, L.V. and Lukyanov, K.A. (2021) “Studying SARS-COV-2 with fluorescence microscopy,” International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 22(12), p. 6558. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms22126558
Yoo, Y.J. et al. (2022) “Gires–tournois immunoassay platform for label‐free bright‐field imaging and facile quantification of bioparticles,” Advanced Materials, 34(21), p. 2110003. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1002/adma.202110003
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