High Frequency Digital Frequency Domain Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging System For Applications On Tissues

Tech ID: 29001 / UC Case 2017-187-0

Brief Description

The technology is a software/hardware combination designed to enhance sampling rate for frequency domain fluorescence lifetime imaging. Fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) is a technique that uses signals emitted from fluorescent samples to construct images of those samples in near real time. An advantage to FLIM is its ability to image large fields of view, which makes it an attractive option for dynamical measurements of live biological tissues. The higher sampling rate available using this technology will allow for more information to be gleaned from biological samples, which may have a fluorescence band up to 1 GHz, advancing tissue imaging.

Full Description


Fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) is a technique used to create near real-time images by exploiting the exponential decay properties of fluorescent samples. In the frequency domain, FLIM involves applying a pulsed source of light to a sample, in order to excite fluorescence, and measuring the phase difference between the emitted fluorescence and the original pulsed light. Additionally, changes in the amplitude of the emitted fluorescence are measured relative to the pulsed source. Information gleaned from these measurements can then be used to construct a digital image representation of the sample. The technique has broad imaging applications, but a subfield with great potential for medical impact is the characterization of biological tissues using their auto-fluorescence properties.


The fluorescence band in tissues is up to 1 GHz, however, the frequency response of previous FLIM instrumentation only reaches 320 MHz, leading to information loss. A technology that improves the frequency response detection would represent a significant advance in the field.


  • Researchers at UC Irvine have developed a technology which combines code written in VHDL (a language specifically designed for hardware such as high speed integrated circuits) with field programmable gate arrays (a type of integrated circuit) currently on the market
  • Result is an invention that allows for frequency domain FLIM at an improved 640 MHz sampling rate
  • New sampling rate opens up possibility of detection of higher order laser harmonics

Key aspects of this technology:

  • 640 MHz sampling rate
  • New version digital frequency domain heterodyning with less noise
  • Technology can work with all confocal microscopes
  • Higher photons throughput due to USB 3.0


Suggested uses

Fluorescence measurements, biological tissue imaging


§ Higher sampling rate (640 MHz)

§ Works with any FPGA chip

§ Inexpensive (electronics are < $100)

§ Use of a USB 3.0 data transmission chip

Patent Status

Patent Pending

State Of Development

Working prototype for fluorescence measurements

Concept stage for tissue applications


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  • Gratton, Enrico
  • Rossetta, Alessandro

Other Information


Frequency Domain, Digital Frequency Domain, Tissue Spectroscopy, Fluorescence Lifetime

Categorized As

  • Institute for Innovation Logo
  • Institute for Innovation Logo

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