Quantum light source advances bio-imaging clarity

Die Quantenlichtquelle verbessert die Bio-Imaging-Klarheit

Quantum enhanced microscopic imaging with water as signal medium. The imaging object is a triangular piece of glass shown in the inset of (a), where the white scale bar is 1 mm in the horizontal direction. More than 3 dB quantum-enhanced SNR or image contrast is clearly visible in (b). Recognition: optics (2022). DOI: 10.1364/OPTICA.467635

Researchers at Texas A&M University have achieved what was once thought impossible – they created a device capable of squeezing light’s quantum fluctuations into a directional path and using it to improve contrast imaging.

This unique “torch” was built to increase the signal-to-noise ratio in Brillouin microscopy-spectroscopic measurements that visually record the mechanical properties of structures in living cells and tissues. Test results show that the new source significantly improves image clarity and accuracy.

“This is a new avenue in research,” said Dr. Vladislav Yakovlev, University Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the College of Engineering. “We specifically design light so that it can improve contrast.”

“This is a new milestone in the capabilities of Brillouin microscopy and imaging widely applied to biosystems,” said Dr. Girish Agarwal, University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Bio- and Agricultural Engineering at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “And it will be part of an international effort to develop quantum sensors for various applications such as imaging the brain, mapping the structure of biomolecules, and exploring underground oil and water wells through the development of super-sensitive gravimeters.”

An article detailing the work was published in optics.

Any device capable of capturing an image or image also captures signal distortion or noise in the process. The distortions can come from too much or too little light and even brightness or color issues from the subject’s surroundings. Most noise goes unnoticed until the image is enlarged enough for the naked eye to clearly see the unwanted pixels.

Brillouin microscopy is the fundamental frontier of reduced-measurement imaging that is currently possible. The technique directs lasers at solid objects and measures the waves, or vibrational signals, produced by the moving atoms and structures within the visibly still material.

Noise generated at this magnitude can severely obscure received signals and produce blurry images that are difficult to interpret. Currently, all laser spectroscopy systems such as Brillouin microscopy suffer from the natural and engineered signal distortions associated with laser light, hence the need for newer light sources.

Six years ago, Yakovlev tried to improve the signal-to-noise ratio in Brillouin microscopy by using intense light sources. Unfortunately, overexposure damaged the cells he was imaging.

Yakovlev searched the literature for answers and found a theory from the 1980s that postulated quantum light could solve the problem, although it didn’t mention how. Agarwal, an expert in quantum physics, has found a possible way. dr Tian Li, then a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Maryland, was hired to set up the first quantum light lab at Texas A&M. The laboratory room was designed by Dr. Marlan Scully, Director of the Institute for Quantum Science and Engineering.

The team faced two major challenges: finding funding for such a wild idea, and finding graduate students and postdocs to help them — those willing to straddle the fields of biology and quantum physics.

After almost two years of intensive research, the device grew into a table-sized contraption of complex optical configurations and measuring instruments that allowed researchers to adjust, direct, and efficiently manipulate and detect light. During this time, Li gained a better understanding of biology, and Yakovlev and Agarwal developed a mechanism to generate the correct state and matter of light needed for noise reduction without damaging living cells.

Although the light squeezer can be used for other spectroscopic measurements such as Raman scattering, Yakovlev and Agarwal are improving Brillouin microscopy’s ability to identify viscous or elastic materials in biological systems. These systems control the physical properties of cells and cell structures, defining everything from cell development to cancer progression.

Seeing details clearly makes a big difference in biomedical breakthroughs.

“Every time you get a new telescope or something like gravitational-wave astronomy, you discover new things that you can’t possibly see without them,” Yakovlev said. “The same thing works in biology. Before the invention of the microscope, we didn’t know that we were made up of individual cells.”

So far, only the contrast of spectroscopy images has been improved, but Yakovlev and Agarwal are already working on Agarwal’s theory to improve spatial resolution, or the smallest possible details. And if the task entails creating another complex device that pushes the boundaries of current technology, the researchers are ready and willing to make it happen.

“I love these kinds of projects where you’re told something’s never going to work, and it works,” Yakovlev said. “I love challenges.”

Powerful 937nm laser lets scientists see deeper with lower power

More information:
Tian Li et al, Quantum enhanced stimulated Brillouin scattering spectroscopy and imaging, optics (2022). DOI: 10.1364/OPTICA.467635

Provided by Texas A&M University College of Engineering

Citation: Quantum Light Source Advances Bio-Imaging Clarity (2022, September 19), retrieved September 19, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-09-quantum-source-advances-bio-imaging-clarity. html

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