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■ Microscopy Light Sources
acquisition in an entirely new type of
Current infrared microscopes are based
on Fourier transform infrared (FTIR)
technology, which use either the relatively
weak light from a globar or synchrotron
radiation from large particle accelerator
facilities. Such sources require cameras
that need cryogenic (liquid nitrogen)
cooling to achieve adequate signal-to-noise ratio.
Daylight Solutions’ Spero microscope
is the first and only commercially available QCL microscope on the market. Unlike in the FTIR method, not all wavelengths have to be scanned, which means
the Spero provides rapid, high-resolution
chemical imaging, which uses an
uncooled microbolometer camera for a
compact, benchtop instrument.
“The wide tunable range of the current
generation QCLs is still limited, but by
coupling several modules together it is
possible to cover most of the infrared fingerprint spectral region, which contains
most of the diagnostically useful information,” said Peter Gardner, professor of
Analytical and Biomedical Spectroscopy
at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnol-
ogy, Manchester, U.K.
“Daylight Solutions [has] done this
coupling four QCL modules to cover the
approximate range 1900-900 cm−1. They
have then coupled this to an infrared
microscope and a room temperature focal
plane array detector.”
The last five years has seen huge invest-
ment in QCLs, which has helped boost
quality, reliability and performance pre-
dictability of QCL-based systems.
“This investment was driven largely
by the demanding requirements of our
military-grade products, which are being
tasked to protect aircraft from shoulder-
fired missiles,” said Jeremy Rowlette,
director of Molecular Imaging at Daylight
Solutions. “The infrastructure built out
to support these products helped raise
the bar for all of our QCL products at
In truth, no single light source provides
the optimum mix of performance and cost
for every single microscopy application.
Manufacturers must often offer multiple
technologies and there is plenty of room
for innovation in these light sources.
Today, both need and demand drive
innovation. Researchers are multiplexing
probes more, and mixing imaging modali-
ties, even adding other analytical methods
such as spectroscopy to their microscopy.
This means that light sources must
keep up to enable these efforts by improv-
ing differentiation and signal-to-noise,
and the demand should soon follow.
“We recognize the fundamental impor-
tance of optical microscopy. Although its
roots go back hundreds of years, optical
microscopy is growing faster than ever
because of developments in life sciences:
from well-funded initiatives like BRAIN
in the area of neuroscience research, to
pre-clinical and clinical diagnostic appli-
cations in support of modern higher life
expectancy,” Coherent’s Schulze said.
“We will continue to support these fields
by providing the laser characteristics
needed in these markets.”