The opacity of conventional ultrasound transducers can impede the miniaturization and workflow of current photoacoustic systems. In particular, optical-resolution photoacoustic microscopy (OR-PAM) requires the coaxial alignment of optical illumination and acoustic-detection paths through complex beam combiners and a thick coupling medium. To overcome these hurdles, we developed a novel OR-PAM method on the basis of our recently reported transparent lithium niobate (LiNbO3) ultrasound transducer (Dangi et al., Optics Letters, 2019), which was centered at 13 MHz ultrasound frequency with 60% photoacoustic bandwidth. To test the feasibility of wearable OR-PAM, optical-only raster scanning of focused light through a transducer was performed while the transducer was fixed above the imaging subject. Imaging experiments on resolution targets and carbon fibers demonstrated a lateral resolution of 8.5 µm. Further, we demonstrated vasculature mapping using chicken embryos and melanoma depth profiling using tissue phantoms. In conclusion, the proposed OR-PAM system using a low-cost transparent LiNbO3 window transducer has a promising future in wearable and high-throughput imaging applications, e.g., integration with conventional optical microscopy to enable a multimodal microscopy platform capable of ultrasound stimulation.
Keywords: optical-resolution photoacoustic microscopy; photoacoustic microscopy; transparent ultrasound transducer; ultrasonic transducer; ultrasound stimulation.