EPSRC CDT in Metamaterials (PhD studentship): Microscopy in scattering media

University of Exeter - Departments of Physics and Engineering

Joint supervisors: Jacopo Bertolotti, Christian Soeller

Light scattering is what make most materials opaque. This happens because light gets scrambled by the scattering process, resulting in images that appear to only show a shapeless halo. This is a major problem especially for bio-imaging, as biological tissues often strongly scatter light, thus preventing imaging beyond the surface layers [1]. In recent years it has been realized that it is possible to circumvent this problem and extract a surprisingly large amount of information from scattered light as long as one understands the mesoscopic physics of transport in disordered metamaterials [2]. There have been several proof of principle demonstrations for this approach [3,4], but so far translating them into real world application has proven challenging.

This project aims to develop a practical microscopy technique able to produce high resolution images of objects hidden deep within a scattering medium. This will include the creation of suitable ‘phantoms’ which contain a fluorescent structure of known shape within a scattering medium, to validate the new approach. The phantoms will be manufactured using optical machining to create a metamaterial where scattering properties can be accurately controlled by sub-micrometre targeted refractive index inhomogeneities in a polymer. The phantoms will be imaged on a fluorescence microscope to evaluate the ability of correlation algorithms developed by Bertolotti to reconstruct the shape and distribution of the fluorescent structures embedded in the scattering medium.

The findings will be translated to imaging deep within actual biological samples of scattering tissue (cartilage, collagen matrix, brain tissue) with the aim to identify and reconstruct fluorescently labelled structures inside the tissue. This will represent a major advance in the ability to obtain information deep in scattering biological tissue. The project will exploit the supervisors’ extensive experience in tissue imaging [5,6] and the availability of an advanced fluorescence microscopy setup to translate the new insights into a practical new imaging modality that will be of major relevance for biomedical applications.

A student undertaking this project will benefit from the very interdisciplinary environment within the Metamaterials CDT that closely matches the interdisciplinary scope of this project. This includes frequent exchange with peers in the cohort who work on different projects but which share underlying physics principles and ideas.

[1] V. Ntziachristos, “Going deeper than microscopy: the optical imaging frontier in biology” Nature Methods 7, 603 (2010).
[2] E. Akkermans, and G. Montambaux, “Mesoscopic Physics of Electrons and Photons” (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007).
[3] J. Bertolotti et al. "Non-invasive imaging through opaque scattering layers", Nature 491, 232 (2012).
[4] O. Katz et al. “Non-invasive single-shot imaging through scattering layers and around corners via speckle correlations”, Nature Photonics 8, 784 (2014).
[5] D.J. Crossman et al. “Combining confocal and single molecule localisation microscopy: A correlative approach to multi-scale tissue imaging”. Methods 88, 98 (2015).
[6] D.J. Crossman et al. “Increased collagen within the transverse tubules in human heart failure.” Cardiovasc Res 113:879 (2017).

This studentship is part of the Centre of Doctoral Training in Metamaterials. Please see all fully funded opportunities.

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