Journal of Biomedical OpticsPhotothermoacoustic imaging of biological tissues: maximum depth characterization comparison of time and frequency-domain measurements
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The photothermoacoustic (PTA) or photoacoustic (PA) effect induced in light-absorbing materials can be observed either as a transient signal in time domain or as a periodic response to modulated optical excitation. Both techniques can be utilized for creating an image of subsurface light-absorbing structures (chromophores). In biological materials, the optical contrast information can be related to physiological activity and chemical composition of a test specimen. The present study compares experimentally the two PA imaging modalities with respect to the maximum imaging depth achieved in scattering media with optical properties similar to biological tissues. Depth profilometric measurements were carried out using a dual-mode laser system and a set of aqueous light-scattering solutions mimicking photon propagation in tissue. Various detection schemes and signal processing methods were tested to characterize the depth sensitivity of PA measurements. The obtained results demonstrate the capabilities of both techniques and can be used in specific PTA imaging applications for development of image reconstruction algorithms aimed at maximizing system performance. Our results demonstrate that submillimeter-resolution depth-selective PA imaging can be achieved without nanosecond-pulsed laser systems by appropriate modulation of a continuous laser source and a signal processing algorithm adapted to specific parameters of the PA response.