This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project is focused on technology to improve microscopy through the development of a highly-innovative, low-cost, high-resolution, spectral (multi-color) imaging video microscope camera architecture for use in the shortwave infrared (SWIR) waveband. Low cost SWIR microscopy supports compelling medical applications in microcirculation imaging and infrared (IR) fluorescence microspectroscopy. Although ubiquitous and cheap, CMOS cameras have low sensitivity in near-infrared (NIR) and no sensitivity at SWIR wavelengths. This project proposes to apply recent scientific advances in the area of Compressive Sensing to the design of a uniquely capable scientific instrument at a fraction of the cost of current cameras. This instrument will achieve a multi-color, staring high-resolution imaging capability while requiring only a one-dimensional detector array and no steering mirror, significantly reducing system cost and increasing acquisition speed. This project will develop advanced algorithms, a compact opto-mechanical design, and high-speed, low-noise data capture and processing electronics.

The broader impact/commercial potential of this research is to open the multi-billion dollar microscopy community to the benefits of low-cost, multi-color, SWIR video imaging. This will enhance and possibly transform clinical modalities in dynamic multi-fluorescence imaging, in vivo functional imaging, tissue viability and pathology studies, and advanced imaging modalities such as optical coherence tomography. Medical imaging research is showing growing interest in the NIR and SWIR wavelengths, particularly in the development of IR fluorophores which produce practically no autofluorescence background while simultaneously enhancing tissue penetration depth. Additionally, multispectral IR detectors acquire a wealth of chemical information for chemically complex, heterogeneous biomaterials. However, investigations have been hampered in this regime because reasonably-priced, multi-color, SWIR cameras are not available. Microcirculation imaging for microvascular distributions and flow mapping represents an excellent entry point and a good match for the optical and electronic capabilities of this technology. Also, SWIR fluorescence molecular imaging with wavelength-tuned, single-walled carbon nanotubes will benefit in biological and material science applications. An affordable multispectral SWIR imaging platform will advance many other commercial applications including food safety, solar panel and semiconductor inspection, machine vision, navigation, security and surveillance.

Project Report

" was to apply the principles and instrumentation of Compressive Sensing to the design of a low-cost, multi-color, high-resolution shortwave infrared camera. InView Technology Corporation builds cameras based on the innovative "single-pixel camera" design whose compressive sensing architecture does not use expensive megapixel sensor arrays. Instead, high-resolution pictures are constructed from a single detector and sophisticated software. In this 6-month SBIR program, InView achieved all of the proposed technical objectives of the project. They demonstrated a color camera design in lab experiments that showed successful imaging over a wide band of visible, near-infrared, and shortwave infrared wavebands of light. The color camera system requires only simple modifications over its monochromatic counterpart. In the design, a selectable variety of wavelengths can be measured simultaneously by choosing the number of detectors and their position. Exact specifications for any design can be determined using an extensive modeling process also developed at InView. The camera can be mounted on a microscope or used for general lab applications. There is growing interest from several research and industrial communities in multicolor imaging that spans visible-to-infrared wavebands. For medical imaging, near-infrared light can penetrate tissue far deeper than visible light and create clearer pictures for tumor identification in image guided surgery, detecting plaque build-up in arteries and in finding tooth decay below the enamel without x-rays. In research communities, the advantages of infrared light have stimulated the development of new infrared fluorescent dyes and other agents such as carbon nanotubes and quantum dots and spurred the development of new biomedical infrared imaging applications in image-guided surgery. In addition, the compressive sensing algorithms have already been applied to tomography to improve CT scans for medical imaging while reducing the number of x-rays. For these and other applications, a low-cost, multispectral imager can provide both spectral and spatial information to enhance detection, sensitivity and specificity in medical imaging and pathology. InView’s color shortwave infrared camera is an enabling technology both for research and for translation to pre-clinical and clinical applications.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP)
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Muralidharan S. Nair
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Inview Technology Corporation
United States
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