Compact 3D printed module for fluorescence and label-free imaging using evanescent excitation

Methods Appl Fluoresc. 2017 Dec 21;6(1):015007. doi: 10.1088/2050-6120/aa967a.


Total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy is widely used for selective excitation and high-resolution imaging of fluorophores, and more recently label-free nanosized objects, with high vertical confinement near a liquid-solid interface. Traditionally, high numerical aperture objectives (>1.4) are used to simultaneously generate evanescent waves and collect fluorescence emission signals which limits their use to small area imaging (<0.1 mm2). Objective-based TIRFs are also expensive as they require dichroic mirrors and efficient notch filters to prevent specular reflection within the objective lenses. We have developed a compact 3D module called cTIRF that can generate evanescent waves in microscope glass slides via a planar waveguide illumination. The module can be attached as a fixture to any existing optical microscope, converting it into a TIRF and enabling high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) fluorescence imaging using any magnification objective. As the incidence optics is perpendicular to the detector, label-free evanescent scattering-based imaging of submicron objects can also be performed without using emission filters. SNR is significantly enhanced in this case as compared to cTIRF alone, as seen through our model experiments performed on latex beads and mammalian cells. Extreme flexibility and the low cost of our approach makes it scalable for limited resource settings.