An electronically tunable ultrafast laser source applied to fluorescence imaging and fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy
Dunsby C., Lanigan PMP., McGinty J., Elson DS., Requejo-Isidro J., Munro I., Galletly N., McCann F., Treanor B., Önfelt B., Davis DM., Neil MAA., French PMW.
Fluorescence imaging is used widely in microscopy and macroscopic imaging applications for fields ranging from biomedicine to materials science. A critical component for any fluorescence imaging system is the excitation source. Traditionally, wide-field systems use filtered thermal or arc-generated white light sources, while point scanning confocal microscope systems require spatially coherent (point-like) laser sources. Unfortunately, the limited range of visible wavelengths available from conventional laser sources constrains the design and usefulness of fluorescent probes in confocal microscopy. A 'hands-off ' laser-like source, electronically tunable across the visible spectrum, would be invaluable for fluorescence imaging and provide new opportunities, e.g. automated excitation fingerprinting and in situ measurement of excitation cross-sections. Yet more information can be obtained using fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM), which requires that the light source be pulsed or rapidly modulated. We show how a white light continuum, generated by injecting femtosecond optical radiation into a micro-structured optical fibre, coupled with a simple prism-based tunable filter arrangement, can fulfil all these roles as a continuously electronically tunable (435-1150 nm) visible ultrafast light source in confocal, wide-field and FLIM systems.