Analog multiplexing of a laser clock and computational photon counting for fast fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy

Rishyashring R. Iyer, Janet E. Sorrells, Kevin K.D. Tan, Lingxiao Yang, Geng Wang, Haohua Tu, Stephen A. Boppart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The dynamic range and fluctuations of fluorescence intensities and lifetimes in biological samples are large, demanding fast, precise, and versatile techniques. Among the high-speed fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) techniques, directly sampling the output of analog single-photon detectors at GHz rates combined with computational photon counting can handle a larger range of photon rates. Traditionally, the laser clock is not sampled explicitly in fast FLIM; rather the detection is synchronized to the laser clock so that the excitation pulse train can be inferred from the cumulative photon statistics of several pixels. This has two disadvantages for sparse or weakly fluorescent samples: inconsistencies in inferring the laser clock within a frame and inaccuracies in aligning the decay curves from different frames for averaging. The data throughput is also very inefficient in systems with repetition rates much larger than the fluorescence lifetime due to significant silent regions where no photons are expected. We present a method for registering the photon arrival times to the excitation using time-domain multiplexing for fast FLIM. The laser clock is multiplexed with photocurrents into the silent region. Our technique does not add to the existing data bottleneck, has the sub-nanosecond dead time of computational photon counting based fast FLIM, works with various detectors, lasers, and electronics, and eliminates the errors in lifetime estimation in photon-starved conditions. We demonstrate this concept on two multiphoton setups of different laser repetition rates for single and multichannel FLIM multiplexed into a single digitizer channel for real-time imaging of biological samples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2048-2062
Number of pages15
JournalBiomedical Optics Express
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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