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Photoacoustic Tomography: Ultrasonically Breaking through the Optical Diffusion Limit

Wang, LV (Washington University)
Tuesday 23 August 2011, 14:05-14:55

Seminar Room 1, Newton Institute


We develop photoacoustic tomography (PAT) for functional and molecular imaging by physically combining optical and ultrasonic waves via energy transduction. Key applications include early-cancer and functional imaging. Light provides rich tissue contrast but does not penetrate biological tissue in straight paths as x-rays do. Consequently, high-resolution pure optical imaging (e.g., confocal microscopy, two-photon microscopy, and optical coherence tomography) is limited to depths within one optical transport mean free path (~1 mm in the skin). Ultrasonic imaging, on the contrary, provides good image resolution but suffers from poor contrast in early-stage tumors as well as strong speckle artifacts. PAT-embodied in the forms of computed tomography and focused scanning-overcomes the above problems because ultrasonic scattering is ~1000 times weaker than optical scattering. In PAT, a pulsed laser beam illuminates the tissue and generates a small but rapid temperature rise, which induces emission of ultrasonic waves due to thermoelastic expansion. The short-wavelength ultrasonic waves are then detected to form high-resolution tomographic images. PAT broke through the diffusion limit for penetration and achieved high-resolution images at depths up to 7 cm in tissue. Further depths can be reached by thermoacoustic tomography (TAT) using microwaves or RF waves instead of light for excitation.


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