Research ArticleOPTICS

Ultrasensitive interferometric on-chip microscopy of transparent objects

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Science Advances  10 Jun 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 6, e1600077
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600077


Light microscopes can detect objects through several physical processes, such as scattering, absorption, and reflection. In transparent objects, these mechanisms are often too weak, and interference effects are more suitable to observe the tiny refractive index variations that produce phase shifts. We propose an on-chip microscope design that exploits birefringence in an unconventional geometry. It makes use of two sheared and quasi-overlapped illuminating beams experiencing relative phase shifts when going through the object, and a complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor image sensor array to record the resulting interference pattern. Unlike conventional microscopes, the beams are unfocused, leading to a very large field of view (20 mm2) and detection volume (more than 0.5 cm3), at the expense of lateral resolution. The high axial sensitivity (<1 nm) achieved using a novel phase-shifting interferometric operation makes the proposed device ideal for examining transparent substrates and reading microarrays of biomarkers. This is demonstrated by detecting nanometer-thick surface modulations on glass and single and double protein layers.

  • digital interference contrast microscopy
  • lens-free imaging
  • on-chip sensing
  • interferometry
  • high-throughput biodetection

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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