Fluorescence imaging beyond the ballistic regime by ultrasound pulse guided digital phase conjugation

Nat Photonics. 2012 Oct 1;6(10):657-661. doi: 10.1038/nphoton.2012.205. Epub 2012 Aug 26.


Fluorescence imaging has revolutionized biomedical research over the past three decades. Its high molecular specificity and unrivaled single molecule level sensitivity have enabled breakthroughs in a variety of research fields. For in vivo applications, its major limitation is the superficial imaging depth as random scattering in biological tissues causes exponential attenuation of the ballistic component of a light wave. Here we present fluorescence imaging beyond the ballistic regime by combining single cycle pulsed ultrasound modulation and digital optical phase conjugation. We demonstrate a near isotropic 3D localized sound-light interaction zone. With the exceptionally high optical gain provided by the digital optical phase conjugation system, we can deliver sufficient optical power to a focus inside highly scattering media for not only fluorescence imaging but also a variety of linear and nonlinear spectroscopy measurements. This technology paves the way for many important applications in both fundamental biology research and clinical studies.