Lennart Nilsson Award 1998

Nils Åslund, Sweden

“For his innovative use of the confocal laser-scanning microscope to obtain three-dimensional images in cell biology.”

Swedish inventor Nils Åslund (b. 1931), Professor of Physics at the Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology (Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan), has been recognized for his pioneering contributions to developing optical and mechanical components for the confocal laser scanning microscope. His work has helped make confocal microscopy the powerful tool for use in biomedical research that it is today.

Through various experiments that involved collecting digital stacks of images for three-dimensional visualization and analyses, Åslund and his research team succeeded in combining laser scanning techniques with confocal imaging techniques to produce high-resolution optical images with depth selectivity. This breakthrough made it possible to obtain with exacting precision in-focus images of living cells as individual optical sections with a thickness of one thousandths of a millimeter as well as three-dimensional images of multiple cell components.

Throughout his career, Åslund has been deeply involved in the field of biomedical image sciences, with a particular focus on fluorescence microscopy. Key concepts in his work are the “term value method” in molecular spectroscopy, IRIS and OSIRIS scanners in imaging technology and the “histostack” method in three-dimensional (3D) densitometry.