The Revolution of Optical Imaging Technology: A Breakthrough in Complex Field Imaging

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) researchers have made a groundbreaking achievement in optical imaging technology with the development of a new all-optical complex field imager. This innovative device can capture both amplitude and phase information of optical fields without the need for digital processing, promising to revolutionize various fields such as biomedical imaging, security, sensing, and material science.

Traditional optical imaging technologies rely on intensity-based sensors that can only capture the amplitude of light, overlooking the crucial phase information. Phase information provides insights into structural properties like absorption and refractive index distributions that are essential for detailed sample analysis. Current methods to capture phase information involve complex interferometric or holographic systems supplemented by iterative phase retrieval algorithms, resulting in increased hardware complexity and computational demand.

Led by Professor Aydogan Ozcan, the team at UCLA has developed a novel complex field imager that overcomes the limitations of traditional optical imaging technologies. This innovative device uses deep learning-optimized diffractive surfaces to modulate incoming complex fields, creating two independent imaging channels that transform the amplitude and phase of input fields into intensity distributions on the sensor plane. By doing so, this approach eliminates the need for any digital reconstruction algorithms, simplifying the imaging process significantly.

The new complex field imager consists of spatially engineered diffractive surfaces designed to perform amplitude-to-amplitude and phase-to-intensity transformations. This allows the device to directly measure the amplitude and phase profiles of input complex fields. The compact optical design of the imager makes it highly integrable into existing optical systems, spanning approximately 100 wavelengths axially. The researchers validated their designs through 3D-printed prototypes operating in the terahertz spectrum, demonstrating a high degree of accuracy with output amplitude and phase channel images closely matching numerical simulations.

The breakthrough in complex field imaging technology opens up a wide range of applications. In the biomedical field, the imager can be utilized for real-time, non-invasive imaging of tissues and cells, providing critical insights during medical procedures. Its compact and efficient design makes it suitable for integration into endoscopic devices and miniature microscopes, potentially advancing point-of-care diagnostics and intraoperative imaging. In environmental monitoring, the imager can enable the development of portable lab-on-a-chip sensors for rapid detection of microorganisms and pollutants. Its portability and ease of use make it an ideal tool for on-site quantitative analysis, streamlining the process of environmental assessment. Industrial applications can also benefit from the complex field imager, as it can be used for rapid inspection of materials, offering detailed structural information without the need for bulky equipment or extensive computational resources.

The development of the all-optical complex field imager represents a significant advancement in optical imaging technology. By enabling the direct capture of amplitude and phase information without digital processing, this technology simplifies the imaging process and broadens the scope of potential applications. As the research team continues to refine and expand upon their designs, the impact of this innovation is expected to grow, offering new opportunities for scientific research and practical applications across various fields.

Science

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