Infrared (IR) spectroscopic imaging systems are a powerful tool for visualizing molecular microstructure of a sample without the need for dyes or stains. Table-top Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) imaging spectrometers, the current established technology, can record broadband spectral data efficiently but requires scanning the entire spectrum with a low throughput source. The advent of high-intensity, broadly tunable quantum cascade lasers (QCL) has now accelerated IR imaging but results in a fundamentally different type of instrument and approach, namely, discrete frequency IR (DF-IR) spectral imaging. While the higher intensity of the source provides a higher signal per channel, the absence of spectral multiplexing also provides new opportunities and challenges. Here, we couple a rapidly tunable QCL with a high performance microscope equipped with a cooled focal plane array (FPA) detector. Our optical system is conceptualized to provide optimal performance based on recent theory and design rules for high-definition (HD) IR imaging. Multiple QCL units are multiplexed together to provide spectral coverage across the fingerprint region (776.9 to 1904.4 cm-1) in our DF-IR microscope capable of broad spectral coverage, wide-field detection, and diffraction-limited spectral imaging. We demonstrate that the spectral and spatial fidelity of this system is at least as good as the best FT-IR imaging systems. Our configuration provides a speedup for equivalent spectral signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) compared to the best spectral quality from a high-performance linear array system that has 10-fold larger pixels. Compared to the fastest available HD FT-IR imaging system, we demonstrate scanning of large tissue microarrays (TMA) in 3-orders of magnitude smaller time per essential spectral frequency. These advances offer new opportunities for high throughput IR chemical imaging, especially for the measurement of cells and tissues.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Analytical Chemistry