Snapshot photoacoustic topography through an ergodic relay for high-throughput imaging of optical absorption


Current embodiments of photoacoustic imaging require either serial detection with a single-element ultrasonic transducer or parallel detection with an ultrasonic array, necessitating a trade-off between cost and throughput. Here, we present photoacoustic topography through an ergodic relay (PATER) for low-cost high-throughput snapshot wide-field imaging. Encoding spatial information with randomized temporal signatures through ergodicity, PATER requires only a single-element ultrasonic transducer to capture a wide-field image with a single laser shot. We applied PATER to demonstrate both functional imaging of haemodynamic responses and high-speed imaging of blood pulse wave propagation in mice in vivo. Leveraging the high frame rate of 2 kHz, PATER tracked and localized moving melanoma tumour cells in the mouse brain in vivo, which enabled flow velocity quantification and super-resolution imaging. Among the potential biomedical applications of PATER, wearable devices to monitor human vital signs in particular is envisaged.

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Fig. 1: Imaging mechanism of PATER.
Fig. 2: Schematic of the PATER system.
Fig. 3: Mouse brain haemoglobin responses to front-paw stimulations.
Fig. 4: Quantification of blood pulse wave velocity.
Fig. 5: Localization and tracking of MTCs in the mouse brain at super-resolution.

Data availability

The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request and with permission from corporate collaborations.

Code availability

The reconstruction algorithm and data processing methods are described in detail in the Methods. We have opted not to make the computer codes publicly available owing to corporate collaborations and pending patent applications.


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We thank J. Ballard and C. Ma for close reading of the manuscript, Y. He and C. Yeh for technical support, and P. Hai for his image superposition codes. This work was sponsored by National Institutes of Health Grants DP1 EB016986 (NIH Director’s Pioneer Award), R01 CA186567 (NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award), R01 EB016963, U01 NS090579 (NIH BRAIN Initiative) and U01 NS099717 (NIH BRAIN Initiative).

Author information

Y.L. and L.L. designed the study. Y.L., L.L. and K.M. built the imaging system. L.L. and Y.L. planned the experiments. Y.L., L.L., E.B. and J.Y. performed the experiments. J.S. and L.W. developed the data acquisition program. L.Z., Y.L. and L.L. developed the reconstruction algorithm. Y.L., L.L., L.Z., J.L., P.H. and J.Y. analysed the data. L.V.W. conceived the concept and supervised the project. All authors contributed to writing the manuscript.

Correspondence to Lihong V. Wang.

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Competing interests

L.V.W. and K.M. have financial interests in Microphotoacoustics, Inc., CalPACT, LLC and Union Photoacoustic Technologies, Ltd, which did not support this work.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–10 and Supplementary Notes 1–4.

Reporting Summary

Supplementary Video 1

Demonstration of PATER’s imaging mechanism.

Supplementary Video 2

Quantification of the spatial resolution of snapshot wide-field imaging by PATER.

Supplementary Video 3

Snapshot wide-field imaging by PATER of blood flow behind biological tissue.

Supplementary Video 4

Snapshot wide-field functional PATER imaging of haemoglobin responses in a mouse brain to front-paw stimulations in vivo.

Supplementary Video 5

Visualization of blood pulse wave propagation in the middle cerebral arteries.

Supplementary Video 6

Snapshot wide-field tracking of MTCs in a tube using PATER at 660 nm light illumination.

Supplementary Video 7

Snapshot wide-field tracking of MTCs in a mouse brain in vivo using PATER at 660 nm light illumination.

Supplementary Video 8

Close-up slow-motion video of snapshot wide-field tracking of MTCs as shown in Supplementary Video 6.

Supplementary Video 9

Buildup of MTC localization map. The positions of migrating MTCs in the blood vessels were tracked throughout the video from Supplementary Video 6 and superimposed.

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Li, Y., Li, L., Zhu, L. et al. Snapshot photoacoustic topography through an ergodic relay for high-throughput imaging of optical absorption. Nat. Photonics (2020).

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