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Super-resolved Terahertz Microscopy for Cellular Imaging

School of Biological Sciences

Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

"The goal of this research project is to develop a new terahertz microscopy technique for the imaging of live cells with a spatial resolution of better than 1 micrometre.

The resonant frequencies of many key biological processes lie in the terahertz (THz) frequency part of the electromagnetic spectrum, corresponding to the collective modes of biomolecules, such as proteins and DNA, and to changes in the dynamics of the water molecules that surround them. Therefore, being able to image cells at THz frequencies can be expected to shed new light on biological processes and may ultimately lead to new medical diagnostic and therapeutic techniques.

However, as the wavelengths of THz radiation are a few hundred micrometres, it is a significant challenge to achieve sub-wavelength resolution of better than 1 micrometre. THz imaging of live cells has yet to be demonstrated.

Whilst there have been impressive recent developments in THz microscopy and nanoscopy, based around scattering near-field probes, sub-wavelength apertures and the introduction of THz-STM, this project will take a different approach, making use of super-resolution image processing techniques. This approach affords a number of advantages, including improved image acquisition time, a greater working distance, and the scope for 3D imaging. Furthermore, it does not require additional equipment such as scattering probes and it can be applied to any type of THz imaging system, both pulsed and continuous wave, and at any THz frequency.

Initial emphasis will be placed on demonstrating 2D imaging. The student will work on developing a 2D super-resolution image processing algorithm, building upon techniques developed at Reading which have already demonstrated 1D sub-wavelength depth resolution. During this phase of the project, the student will acquire image data on test objects using an imaging system operating at 100 GHz, refining the image acquisition procedure as necessary. Processing this data with the new algorithm will provide an important demonstration of the resolution that can be achieved and how it relates to signal-to-noise ratio and image acquisition time. Once the technique has been optimised at 100 GHz, further test images will be recorded at frequencies around 1 THz, with the goal of demonstrating sub-micrometre resolution. At this point, imaging of live cells will be performed and correlated to standard biological imaging techniques, such as confocal, epifluorescence and bright field microscopy. This will enable the image contrast mechanisms to be elucidated. Finally, the possibility of extending the technique to achieve full 3D imaging will be explored."

Funding Notes

Eligibility requirements: Applicants should have a bachelors (at least 2.1 or equivalent) or masters degree in Physics, Biomedical Engineering, Optics, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Cybernetics or a strongly related discipline. Strong experimental skills are preferable. Experience in Matlab is desirable.

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