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High-gain and high-speed wavefront shaping through scattering media


Wavefront shaping (WFS) is emerging as a promising tool for controlling and focusing light in complex scattering media. The shaping system’s speed, the energy gain of the corrected wavefronts and the control degrees of freedom are the most important metrics for WFS, especially for highly scattering and dynamic samples. Despite recent advances, current methods suffer from trade-offs that limit satisfactory performance to only one or two of these metrics. Here we report a WFS technique that simultaneously achieves high speed, high energy gain and high control degrees of freedom. By combining photorefractive crystal-based analogue optical phase conjugation and stimulated emission light amplification, our technique achieves an energy gain approaching unity; that is, more than three orders of magnitude larger than conventional analogue optical phase conjugation. The response time of ~10 μs with about 106 control modes corresponds to an average mode time of about 0.01 ns per mode, which is more than 50 times quicker than some of the fastest WFS systems so far. We anticipate that this technique will be instrumental in overcoming the optical diffusion limit in photonics and translate WFS techniques to real-world applications.

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Fig. 1: Principle of the HGHS-WFS.
Fig. 2: Schematic of the experimental set-up.
Fig. 3: Experimental demonstrations of the HGHS-WFS at different pump powers of the gain modules.
Fig. 4: Focusing through fast dynamic scattering samples.
Fig. 5: In vivo optical focusing through a living-mouse ear.

Data availability

All data that support the findings of this study are available within the article and Supplementary Information, or available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Code availability

The codes used in this study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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We appreciate J. Ballard’s close reading of the paper and M. Cronin-Golomb’s discussions on the photorefractive theory. This work was financially supported by US National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants R35 CA220436 (Outstanding Investigator Award) and R01 EB028277.

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Authors and Affiliations



Z.C. and L.V.W. designed the study. Z.C. built the experimental system and performed the experiments. C.L. explored the amplification of scattered light at the early stage of the project. A.K. and Y.Z. prepared the living animal samples and participated in the in vivo experiments. L.V.W supervised the project. All of the authors wrote and revised the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lihong V. Wang.

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Competing interests

L.W. has a financial interest in Microphotoacoustics, Inc., CalPACT, LLC. and Union Photoacoustic Technologies, Ltd., which, however, did not support this work. The other authors declare no competing interests.

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Nature Photonics thanks Cheng Ma and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Notes 1–12, Figs. 1–11 and Table 1.

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Cheng, Z., Li, C., Khadria, A. et al. High-gain and high-speed wavefront shaping through scattering media. Nat. Photon. (2023).

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