Despite the fact that laser scanning confocal microscopy (LSCM) has become an important tool in modern biological laboratories, it is bulky, inflexible and has limited field of view, thus limiting its applications. To overcome these drawbacks, we report the development of a compact dual-clad photonic-crystal-fiber (DCPCF) based multiphoton scanning microscope. In this novel microscope, beam-scanning is achieved by directly scanning an optical fiber, in contrast to conventional beam scanning achieved by varying the incident angle of a laser beam at an objective entrance pupil. The fiber delivers femtosecond laser pulses for two-photon excitation and collects fluorescence back through the same fiber. Conventional fibers, either single-mode fiber (SMF) or multimode fiber (MMF), are not suitable for this detection configuration because of the low collection efficiency for a SMF and low excitation rate for a MMF. Our newly invented DCPCF allows one to optimize collection and excitation efficiency at the same time. In addition, when a gradient-index (GRIN) lens is used to focus the fiber output to a tight spot, the fluorescence signal collected back through the GRIN lens forms a large spot at the fiber tip because of the chromatic aberrations of the GRIN lens. This problem prevents a standard fiber from being applicable, but is completely overcome by the DCPCF. We demonstrate that this next generation scanning confocal microscope has an extremely simple structure and a number of unique features owing to its fundamentally different scanning mechanism: high flexibility, arbitrarily large scan range, aberration-free imaging, and low cost.© (2005) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.