Pulsed illumination of a sample, e.g., of a biological tissue, causes a sudden temperature increase of light absorbing structures, such as blood vessels, which results in an outgoing acoustic wave, as well as heat diffusion, of the absorbed energy. Both of the signals, pressure and temperature, can be measured at the sample surface and are used to reconstruct the initial temperature or pressure distribution, called photoacoustic or photothermal reconstruction respectively. We have demonstrated that both signals at the same surface pixel are connected by a temporal transformation. This allows for the calculation of a so-called acoustical virtual wave from the surface temperature evolution as measured by an infrared camera. The virtual wave is the solution of a wave equation and can be used to reconstruct the initial temperature distribution immediately after the excitation pulse. This virtual wave reconstruction method was used for the reconstruction of inclined steel rods in an epoxy sample, which were heated by a short pulse. The reconstructed experimental images show clearly the degradation of the spatial resolution with increasing depth, which is theoretically described by a depth-dependent thermographic point-spread-function.
Keywords: acoustic reconstruction; image reconstruction; infrared thermography; inverse problem; virtual wave concept.