The optoPlates are a series of open-source devices that enable high-throughput, multi-color optogenetic experiments in microwell plates. With the optoPlate-96, each well of a 96-well plate can be illuminated with up to 3 wavelengths of light, with independent control of illumination timing and intensity. Despite its complexity and robustness, the optoPlate-96 can be assembled in a few hours with no specialized equipment, at a total cost of ~$500. See below for full optoPlate-96 details, annotated protocols, design files, and code. These devices have been game-changers in our ability to perform complex, quantitative, and reproducible optogenetic experiments. We hope they will be equally powerful for you.

Key References

Bugaj LJ and Lim WA. Nature Protocols
**please cite this work if you use the optoPlates in a publication

Bugaj, L.J., Sabnis, A.J., Mitchell, A., Garbarino, J.E., Toettcher, J.E., Bivona, T.G., and Lim, W.A. (2018). Cancer mutations and targeted drugs can disrupt dynamic signal encoding by the Ras-Erk pathway. Science 361.



At its core, the optoPlate-96 is an LED array formatted to illuminate standard microwell plates. This device allows programmable control of 288 independent channels of light in 96-well format (3 channels/colors per well). Each well position can also illuminate 4-wells of a 384-well plate, and the devices can be readily multiplexed for enhanced throughput. 3D-printed adapters were designed to optically insulate each well from its neighbors. Additionally, an active heatsink minimizes sample heating when light-intensive illumination protocols must be used. The optoPlates were designed primarily for use within cell culture incubators, but an also be adapted for illumination of cells during live-cell microscopy.


optoPlate-96 features

  • 96 illumination positions

  • up to 3 colors per condition. optimized wavelengths for common blue and red mammalian optogenetic probes (blue/red/far-red illumination)

  • independent control of each color/position

  • 96- or 384-well plate illumination

  • 3D-printed microwell plate adapter and lid

  • complete optical insulation in each well

  • designed for long-term incubator experiments

  • thermal management

  • fully integrated, no data cables

  • powered by Arduino

  • simple DIY assembly, QC in 3-4 hours


Assembly and use

The optoPlate-96 can be built to illuminate 1, 2 or 3 separate colors per position. Our protocol provides instructions on how to build any of three color combinations that can stimulate the common mammalian cell optogenetic probes:

  1. Blue (for LOV2, Cryptochrome2)

  2. Red/Far-red (for Phytochrome B)

  3. Blue/Red/Far-red (for multiplexing 1 and 2)

The optoPlate-96 can be assembled manually following our detailed protocol.  Once all necessary components have been ordered/3D printed/laser cut, a fully functional optoPlate-96 can be assembled and tested in 3-4 hours. The design files for PCB printing, 3D-printing, and laser/jet cutting are all provided in our Github repository.  To visualize the finished product, explore the interactive 3D models below.

OptoPlate-96 Downloads

Interactive 3D models

click on an image to interact with the model



Comments? Questions? Bugs?

We would love feedback on the optoPlate-96. What works? What doesn’t? What could be done better?. Drop us a note below and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

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