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Imaging deep within a scattering medium using collective accumulation of single-scattered waves

Nature Photonics volume 9, pages 253258 (2015) | Download Citation


Optical microscopy suffers from a loss of resolving power when imaging targets are embedded in thick scattering media because of the dominance of strong multiple-scattered waves over waves scattered only a single time by the targets. Here, we present an approach that maintains full optical resolution when imaging deep within scattering media. We use both time-gated detection and spatial input–output correlation to identify those reflected waves that conserve in-plane momentum, which is a property of single-scattered waves. By implementing a superradiance-like collective accumulation of the single-scattered waves, we enhance the ratio of the single scattering signal to the multiple scattering background by more than three orders of magnitude. An imaging depth of 11.5 times the scattering mean free path is achieved with a near-diffraction-limited resolution of 1.5 μm. Our method of distinguishing single- from multiple-scattered waves will open new routes to deep-tissue imaging and studying the physics of the interaction of light with complex media.

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This research was supported by the IT R&D Program (R2013080003), the Global Frontier Program (2014M3A6B3063710), IBS-R023-D1-2015-a00, the Basic Science Research Program (2013R1A1A2062560) and the Nano-Material Technology Development Program (2011-0020205) through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning. It was also supported by the Korea Health Technology R&D Project (HI14C0748) funded by the Ministry of Health & Welfare, Republic of Korea. The authors thank C. Fang-Yen for discussions.

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Author notes

    • Sungsam Kang
    •  & Seungwon Jeong

    These authors contributed equally to this work


  1. Department of Physics, Korea University, Seoul 136-701, Korea

    • Sungsam Kang
    • , Seungwon Jeong
    • , Wonjun Choi
    • , Hakseok Ko
    • , Taeseok D. Yang
    • , Q-Han Park
    •  & Wonshik Choi
  2. Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Korea University, Seoul 136-701, Korea

    • Jang Ho Joo
    •  & Jae-Seung Lee
  3. Department of Nano Science and Mechanical Engineering and Nanotechnology Research Center, Konkuk University, Chungbuk 380-701, Korea

    • Yong-Sik Lim
  4. Center for Molecular Spectroscopy and Dynamics, Seoul 136-701, Korea

    • Wonshik Choi


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W.C., S.K. and S.J. conceived the experiment. S.K. and S.J. carried out the measurements and analysed the data with W.C. W.C.* and Q.P. performed the theoretical study and supported interpretation of the data. Y.L. assisted in the design of the optical set-up. H.K. prepared scattering layers. T.Y. prepared biological tissues. J.J. and J.L. provided gold-coated silica beads. S.K., S.J. and W.C. prepared the manuscript. All authors contributed to finalizing the manuscript. W.C. and W.C.* refer to Wonshik Choi and Wonjun Choi, respectively.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Wonshik Choi.

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