(19)
(11)EP 3 640 701 A1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT APPLICATION

(43)Date of publication:
22.04.2020 Bulletin 2020/17

(21)Application number: 19213786.7

(22)Date of filing:  25.10.2012
(51)Int. Cl.: 
G02B 21/08  (2006.01)
G02B 21/00  (2006.01)
G02B 21/36  (2006.01)
(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 25.10.2011 US 201161551147 P

(62)Application number of the earlier application in accordance with Art. 76 EPC:
12794798.4 / 2771731

(71)Applicant: Daylight Solutions Inc.
San Diego, CA 92128 (US)

(72)Inventors:
  • WEIDA, Miles James
    Poway, CA 92064 (US)
  • DAY, Timothy
    Poway, CA 92064 (US)

(74)Representative: Viering, Jentschura & Partner mbB Patent- und Rechtsanwälte 
Am Brauhaus 8
01099 Dresden
01099 Dresden (DE)

 
Remarks:
This application was filed on 05-12-2019 as a divisional application to the application mentioned under INID code 62.
 


(54)INFRARED IMAGING MICROSCOPE USING TUNABLE LASER RADIATION


(57) An imaging microscope (12) for generating an image of a sample (10) comprises a beam source (14) that is a laser emitting a temporally coherent illumination infrared beam (20), the illumination beam (20) including a plurality of rays that are directed at the sample (10); an image sensor (18), including a two-dimensional array of sensors, that converts an optical image into an array of electronic signals; and an imaging lens assembly (16) that receives rays from the beam source (14) that are transmitted through the sample (10) and forms an image on the image sensor (18). The imaging lens assembly (16) can further receive rays from the beam source (14) that are reflected off of the sample (10) and form a second image on the image sensor (18). The imaging lens assembly (16) receives the rays from the sample (10) and forms the image on the image sensor (18) without splitting and recombining the rays.




Description

GOVERNMENT SPONSORED DEVELOPMENT



[0001] The U.S. Government has rights in this invention pursuant to contract number NSF SBIR Phase I Award No. 11-1046450 with the National Science Foundation.

RELATED INVENTION



[0002] This application claims priority on U.S. Provisional Application Serial No. 61/551,147, filed October 25, 2011 and entitled "INFRARED IMAGING MICROSCOPE USING TUNABLE LASER RADIATION FOR SPECTROSCOPIC ANALYSIS OF SAMPLES". As far as permitted, the contents of U.S. Provisional Application Serial No. 61/551,147 are incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND



[0003] Microscopes are often used to analyze a sample in order to evaluate certain details and/or properties of the sample that would not otherwise be visible to the naked eye. Additional information on the chemical properties of the sample can be obtained by illuminating and observing the sample with distinct wavelengths of monochromatic laser radiation. Samples that can be analyzed this way include human tissue, explosive residues, powders, liquids, solids, inks, and other materials. A human tissue sample may be analyzed for the presence of cancerous cells and/or other health related conditions. Other materials may be analyzed for the presence of explosive residues and/or other dangerous substances.

SUMMARY



[0004] The present invention is directed toward an imaging microscope for generating an image of a sample, the imaging microscope comprising a beam source, an image sensor and an imaging lens assembly. The beam source emits a temporally coherent illumination beam, the illumination beam including a plurality of rays that are directed at the sample. The image sensor converts an optical image into an array of electronic signals. In one embodiment, the imaging lens assembly receives rays from the beam source that are transmitted through the sample and form an image on the image sensor. Alternatively, the imaging lens assembly can receive rays from the beam source that are reflected off of the sample to form the image on the image sensor.

[0005] In certain embodiments, the imaging microscope further comprises an illumination lens assembly that directs the illumination beam at the sample. The illumination lens assembly adjusts the illumination beam so that the illumination beam illuminates a two-dimensional illuminated area on the sample all at once. Additionally, in such embodiments, the image sensor includes a two-dimensional array of sensors.

[0006] In one embodiment, the beam source is a mid-infrared ("MIR") beam source and the illumination beam is at a beam wavelength that is within the MIR range. In this embodiment, the illumination lens assembly is refractive in the MIR range.

[0007] Additionally, in some embodiments, the illumination lens assembly directs the illumination beam at the sample without splitting and recombining the illumination beam.

[0008] Further, in one embodiment, the illumination lens assembly magnifies the illumination beam. Moreover, the illumination lens assembly can adjust the size of the illumination beam so that the illuminated area on the sample is at least approximately two hundred and fifty microns by two hundred and fifty microns.

[0009] In one embodiment, the imaging lens assembly includes a refractive lens that directs the rays received by the imaging lens assembly.

[0010] Additionally, in some embodiments, the imaging lens assembly receives the rays from a plurality of points on the sample and forms the image on the image sensor without splitting and recombining the received rays.

[0011] The present invention is further directed toward a method for generating an image of a sample, the method comprising the steps of emitting a temporally coherent illumination beam with a beam source, the illumination beam including a plurality of rays; directing the plurality of rays at the sample; converting an optical image into an array of electronic signals with an image sensor; receiving rays from the beam source that are transmitted through the sample with an imaging lens assembly; and forming an image on the image sensor with the rays received from the beam source by the imaging lens assembly that are transmitted through the sample.

[0012] Additionally and/or alternatively, the method can further comprise the steps of receiving rays from the beam source that are reflected off of the sample with the imaging lens assembly; and forming a second image on the image sensor with the rays received from the beam source by the imaging lens assembly that are reflected off of the sample.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS



[0013] The novel features of this invention, as well as the invention itself, both as to its structure and its operation, will be best understood from the accompanying drawings, taken in conjunction with the accompanying description, in which similar reference characters refer to similar parts, and in which:

Figure 1A is simplified schematic illustration of a sample and an embodiment of an imaging microscope having features of the present invention;

Figure 1B is a simplified schematic illustration of the sample illustrated in Figure 1A, including a transmission illuminated area;

Figure 1C is a simplified schematic illustration of the sample illustrated in Figure 1A, including a reflection illuminated area;

Figure 2 is a simplified schematic illustration of the sample and another embodiment of an imaging microscope having features of the present invention;

Figure 3 is a simplified schematic illustration of the sample and still another embodiment of an imaging microscope having features of the present invention; and

Figure 4 is a simplified flowchart demonstrating the use of an imaging microscope having features of the present invention to analyze a sample.


DESCRIPTION



[0014] Figure 1A is simplified schematic illustration of a sample 10 and a first embodiment of an imaging microscope 12 having features of the present invention. In particular, the imaging microscope 12 can be used to analyze and evaluate the various properties of the sample 10. For example, in one embodiment, the imaging microscope 12 is an infrared imaging microscope that uses tunable laser radiation to spectroscopically interrogate one or more samples 10 in order to analyze and identify the properties of the sample.

[0015] As an overview, the imaging microscope 12 is uniquely designed to inhibit potential complications from temporal and/or spatial coherence that may otherwise be present due to the use of laser radiation for image illumination. Moreover, the present invention provides such benefits without the potential drawbacks of complexity of manufacture and operation, increased size and time requirements, increased power consumption, high cost, and inefficiency.

[0016] The sample 10 can be a variety of things, including human tissue, animal tissue, plant matter, explosive residues, powders, liquids, solids, inks, and other materials commonly analyzed using Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) microscopes. More particularly, in certain non-exclusive applications, the sample 10 can be human tissue and the imaging microscope 12 can be utilized for rapid screening of the tissue sample 10 for the presence of cancerous cells and/or other health related conditions; and/or the imaging microscope 12 can be utilized in certain forensic applications such as rapid screening of the sample 10 for the presence of explosive residues and/or other dangerous substances. Additionally, when positioned substantially within the imaging microscope 12 for purposes of analysis, the sample 10 can be present by itself, or the sample 10 can be held in place using one or more slides, e.g., infrared transparent slides.

[0017] Further, the sample 10 can be thin enough to allow study through transmission of an illumination beam, e.g., an infrared illumination beam, through the sample 10 (i.e. in transmission mode), or the sample 10 can be an optically opaque sample that is analyzed through reflection of an illumination beam, e.g., an infrared illumination beam, by the sample (i.e. in reflection mode). For example, in the embodiment illustrated in Figure 1A, the imaging microscope 12 can alternatively be utilized in both transmission mode and reflection mode.

[0018] In another embodiment, the imaging mircroscope 12 can be used in both transmission mode and reflection mode at the same time. For example, some samples 10 are transmissive to certain wavelengths and reflective to other wavelengths. As a more specific, non-exclusive example, light in the visible spectrum can be directed at the sample 10 for use in the transmission mode, and MIR light can be directed at the sample 10 for use in the reflection mode. Still alternatively, the imaging microscope 12 can be designed such that it only operates in one of transmission mode or reflection mode.

[0019] The design of the imaging microscope 12 can be varied. In the embodiment illustrated in Figure 1A, the imaging microscope 12 includes a rigid frame 13, a temporally coherent beam source 14, a stage assembly 15 that retains the sample 10, an imaging lens assembly 16 (e.g., one or more lenses), and an image sensor 18 that converts an optical image into an array of electronic signals. The design of each of these components can be varied pursuant to the teachings provided herein.

[0020] In one embodiment, the beam source 14 (i) emits a temporally coherent, first illumination beam 20 that is usable for illuminating and analyzing the sample 10 in transmission mode; and/or (ii) emits a temporally coherent, second illumination beam 22 that is usable for illuminating and analyzing the sample 10 in reflection mode. The first illumination beam 20 is made up of a plurality of illumination rays 20I that are directed at the sample 10, and the second illumination beam 22 is made up of a plurality of illumination rays 22I that are directed at the sample 10. Each illumination beam 20, 22 can be emitted from the same beam source 14. Alternatively, each illumination beam 20, 22 can be emitted from a separate and distinct beam source. It should be noted that the use of the terms "first illumination beam" and "second illumination beam" is merely for ease of description, and either illumination beam 20, 22 can be referred to as the "first illumination beam" or the "second illumination beam".

[0021] In certain embodiments, the beam source 14 can include (i) a first laser source 14A that emits the first illumination beam 20, e.g., a first laser beam, and (ii) a second laser source 14B that emits the second illumination beam 22, e.g., a second laser beam. Alternatively, for example, the beam source 14 can be designed to include a single laser source with the appropriate beam directors.

[0022] Further, in one, non-exclusive embodiment, the beam source 14 is designed to provide illumination beams 20, 22 that are in the mid infrared ("MIR") range spectrum. More particularly, in some such embodiments, one or both of the laser sources 14A, 14B can be a mid-infrared (MIR) beam source that emits the first illumination beam 20 and/or the second illumination beam 22 that is at a beam wavelength that is within the MIR range. For example, one or both of the laser sources 14A, 14B can be any type of laser that is capable of generating radiation in the spectral region of between approximately two to twenty microns (2-20 µm). Moreover, in alternative embodiments, the laser sources 14A, 14B can be a pulsed laser and/or a continuous wave (CW) laser.

[0023] As provided herein, one or both of the laser sources 14A, 14B can be an external cavity laser that includes a laser frame 14C, a gain medium 14D, a cavity optical assembly 14E, an output optical assembly 14F, and a wavelength dependent ("WD") feedback assembly 14G.

[0024] The laser frame 14C provides a rigid support for the components of each laser source 14A, 14B. In one embodiment, the laser frame 14C for each laser source 14A, 14B is a single mechanical ground plane that provides structural integrity for the respective laser source 14A, 14B. In certain embodiments, the laser frame 14C is made of rigid material that has a relatively high thermal conductivity.

[0025] The design of the gain medium 14D can be varied pursuant to the teachings provided herein. In one, non-exclusive embodiment, the gain medium 14D for each laser directly emits the respective beams 20, 22 without any frequency conversion. As non-exclusive examples, one or both of the gain mediums 14D can be a Quantum Cascade (QC) gain medium, an Interband Cascade (IC) gain medium, or a mid-infrared diode. Alternatively, another type of gain medium 14D can be utilized.

[0026] In Figure 1A, each gain medium 14D includes (i) a first facet that faces the respective cavity optical assembly 14E and the feedback assembly 14G, and (ii) a second facet that faces the output optical assembly 14F. In this embodiment, each gain medium 14D emits from both facets. In one embodiment, each first facet is coated with an anti-reflection ("AR") coating, and each second facet is coated with a reflective coating. The AR coating allows light directed from the gain medium 14D at the first facet to easily exit as a beam directed at the feedback assembly 14G; and allows the light beam reflected from the feedback assembly 14G to easily enter the gain medium 14D. The beams 20, 22 exit from the respective second facet. The partly reflective coating on the second facet of each gain medium 14D reflects at least some of the light that is directed at the second facet of each gain medium 14D back into the respective gain medium 14D. In one non-exclusive embodiment, the AR coating can have a reflectivity of less than approximately 2 percent, and the reflective coating can have a reflectivity of between approximately 2-95 percent.

[0027] In one embodiment, for each laser source 14A, 14B, (i) the reflective coating on the second facet of the gain medium 14D acts as a first end (output coupler) of an external cavity and the feedback assembly 14G (spaced apart from the gain medium 14D) defines a second end of the each external cavity. The term external cavity is utilized to designate that the WD feedback assembly 14G is positioned outside of the gain medium 14D.

[0028] The cavity optical assembly 14E is positioned between the gain medium 14D and the feedback assembly 14G along a lasing axis. The cavity optical assembly 14E collimates and focuses the beam that passes between these components. For example, each cavity optical assembly 14E can include one or more lens. For example, the lens can be an aspherical lens having an optical axis that is aligned with the respective lasing axis.

[0029] The output optical assembly 14F is positioned between the gain medium 14D and the beam redirector assembly 28 in line with the lasing axis to collimate and focus the beam 22 that exits the second facet of the gain medium 14D. For example, each output optical assembly 14F can include one or more lens that are somewhat similar in design to the lens of the cavity optical assemblies 14E.

[0030] The WD feedback assembly 14G reflects the beam back to the gain medium 14D, and is used to precisely select and adjust the lasing frequency of the external cavity and the wavelength of the pulses of light. Stated in another fashion, the WD feedback assembly 14G is used to feed back to the gain medium 14D a relatively narrow band wavelength which is then amplified in the respective gain medium 14D. In this manner, the respective beams 20, 22 may be tuned with the WD feedback assembly 14G without adjusting the respective gain medium 14D. Thus, with the external cavity arrangements disclosed herein, the WD feedback assembly 14G dictates what wavelength will experience the most gain and thus dominate the wavelength of the beams 20, 22.

[0031] In one embodiment, the WD feedback assembly 14G includes a diffraction grating 14H and a grating mover 141 that selectively moves (e.g. rotates) the grating 14H to adjust the lasing frequency of the gain medium 14D and the wavelength of the respective beams 20, 22. The grating 14H can be continuously monitored with an encoder that provides for closed loop control of the grating mover 141. With this design, the wavelength of the respective beam 20, 22 can be selectively adjusted in a closed loop fashion so that the sample 10 can be imaged at many different, precise, selectively adjustable wavelengths throughout a portion or the entire MIR spectrum.

[0032] Once the beam source 14 has emitted the first illumination beam 20 and/or the second illumination beam 22, the illumination beam 20, 22 is directed toward the sample 10 so that the sample 10 may be properly and effectively illuminated by the illumination beam 20, 22. For example, when the imaging microscope 12 is operating in transmission mode, the first illumination beam 20 (including the plurality of illumination rays 20I) is directed toward the sample 10 in order to properly and effectively illuminate the sample 10. In this example, the rays that are transmitted through the sample 10 are referred to as transmitted rays 20T. In another example, when the imaging microscope 12 is operating in reflection mode, the second illumination beam 22 (including a plurality of illumination rays 22I) is directed toward the sample 10 in order to properly and effectively illuminate the sample 10. In this example, the rays that are reflected off of the sample 10 are referred to as reflected rays 22R.

[0033] In the embodiment illustrated in Figure 1A, when operating in transmission mode, the first illumination beam 20 exiting the beam source 14 is directed with a transmission illumination lens assembly 24 toward and impinging on the sample 10. In one embodiment, the transmission illumination lens assembly 24 can include one or more refractive lenses 24A (only one is illustrated in phantom) that direct the first illumination beam 20 at the sample 10. Moreover, the transmission illumination lens assembly 24 can be refractive in the MIR range.

[0034] In certain embodiments, the transmission illumination lens assembly 24 adjusts the first illumination beam 20 so that the first illumination beam 20 at least illuminates a transmission illuminated area 10A (illustrated in Figure 1B) on the sample 10 all at once that is two-dimensional 10. Stated in another fashion, the transmission illumination lens assembly 24 adjusts the first illumination beam 20 so that the first illumination beam 20 at least illuminates a two-dimensional transmission illuminated area 10A simultaneously on the sample 10. With this design, the entire sample 10 or a large portion of the sample 10 is simultaneously illuminated and can be examined at the same time. This expedites the analysis of the sample 10.

[0035] In certain embodiments, the transmission illumination lens assembly 24 can be used to transform, i.e. to increase (magnify) or decrease, the size of the first illumination beam 20 to match and simultaneously illuminate a desired transmission illuminated area 10A on the sample 10. Stated another way, the transmission illumination lens assembly 24 can be used to condition and focus the first illumination beam 20 so that the first illumination beam 20 has the correct or desired size and beam profile on the sample 10. In certain embodiments, size of the transmission illuminated area 10A of the sample 10 is tailored to correspond to the design of the image sensor 18 and the imaging lens assembly 16.

[0036] Figure 1B is a simplified schematic illustration of the sample 10 illustrated in Figure 1A, including the transmission illuminated area 10A (illustrated with a box in phantom) that is simultaneously illuminated. In certain embodiments, the two-dimensional transmission illumination area 10A is rectangular shaped. More particularly, in some such embodiments, the two-dimensional transmission illumination area 10A can be square shaped. For example, in alternative non-exclusive embodiments, the transmission illumination lens assembly 24 can adjust the size of the first illumination beam 20 so that the transmission illuminated area 10A that is simultaneously illuminated on the sample 10 is at least approximately (i) two hundred and fifty microns (250 µm) by two hundred and fifty microns (250 µm); (ii) five hundred microns (500 µm) by five hundred microns (500 µm); (iii) seven hundred and fifty microns (750 µm) by seven hundred and fifty microns (750 µm); (iv) one millimeter (1 mm) by one millimeter (1 mm); (v) one and a half millimeter (1.5 mm) by one and a half millimeter (1.5 mm); and (vi) two millimeters (2 mm) by two millimeters (2 mm); or (vii) three millimeters (3 mm) by three millimeters (3 mm). Still alternatively, the transmission illuminated area 10A can have a non-square shape. As non-exclusive examples, the transmission illumination lens assembly 24 can adjust the size of the first illumination beam 20 so that the transmission illuminated area 10A on the sample 10 is at least approximately two hundred microns (200 µm) by three hundred microns (300 µm); or (iii) fifty microns (50 µm) by five hundred microns (500 µm). Alternatively, the transmission illumination lens assembly 24 can adjust the size of the first illumination beam 20 so that the transmission illuminated area 10A on the sample 10 has a different size or shape than the examples provided above. For example, in alternative, non-exclusive embodiments, the transmission illumination lens assembly 24 can adjust the size of the first illumination beam 20 so that the transmission illuminated area 10A is at least approximately 20, 30, 30, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, or 100 millimeters squared. Still alternatively, for example, the two-dimensional transmission illuminated area 10A can be circular or oval shaped.

[0037] Further, as shown in Figure 1B, the transmission illuminated area 10A is really an effectively illuminated area (has substantially uniform intensity) that exists within a larger, fully illuminated area 10B that is simultaneously illuminated by the first illumination beam 20 (illustrated in Figure 1A). As illustrated, the fully illuminated area 10B can be substantially circular shaped and can be the result of the first illumination beam 20 having a substantially circular shaped cross-section. Alternatively, the first illumination beam 20, and thus the fully illuminated area 10B can have another shape.

[0038] Moreover, referring back to Figure 1A, the transmission illumination lens assembly 24 transforms the size and profile of the first illumination beam 20 as desired without splitting the illumination rays 20I of the first illumination beam 20 into multiple paths that, if recombined, can cause interference at the sample 10. Stated another way, the transmission illumination lens assembly 24 directs the first illumination beam 20 at the sample 10 without splitting and recombining the illumination rays 20I of the first illumination beam 20.

[0039] Alternatively, in another embodiment, if the first illumination beam 20 has sufficient extent to allow illumination of the desired area size of the sample 10, then the imaging microscope 12 can be designed without the transmission illumination lens assembly 24, and the first illumination beam 20 can be directly shined onto the sample 10.

[0040] In the embodiment illustrated in Figure 1A, the imaging microscope 12 also can include a reflection illumination lens assembly 26 for directing the second illumination beam 22 at the sample 10 when operating in reflection mode. In one embodiment, the reflection illumination lens assembly 26 includes one or more lenses 26A, a redirector 28, e.g., a mirror, and a transmitter-redirector 30, e.g., a beam splitter. In this embodiment, one or more of the lenses 26A of the reflection illumination lens assembly 26 can be refractive in the MIR range. In the non-exclusive embodiment illustrated in Figure 1A, the lens assembly 26 includes two, spaced apart lenses 26A.

[0041] Additionally, in certain embodiments, the reflection illumination lens assembly 26 adjusts the second illumination beam 22 so that the second illumination beam 22 at least illuminates a reflection illuminated area 10C (illustrated in Figure 1C) on the sample 10 all at once that is two-dimensional. Stated in another fashion, the reflection illumination lens assembly 26 adjusts the second illumination beam 22 so that the second illumination beam 22 illuminates a two-dimensional reflection illuminated area 10C simultaneously on the sample 10. With this design, the entire sample 10 or a large portion of the sample 10 is simultaneously illuminated and can be examined at the same time. This expedites the analysis of the sample 10. In certain embodiments, the reflection illumination lens assembly 26 conditions the second illumination beam 22 to allow for the broad illumination of the reflection illuminated area 10C through a first lens 32 of the imaging lens assembly 16. In this embodiment, the same first lens 32 is used direct the second illumination beam 22 at the sample 10 and is used as the objective for the beams reflected off the sample 10.

[0042] In certain embodiments, the reflection illumination lens assembly 26 can be used to transform, i.e. to increase (magnify) or decrease, the size of the second illumination beam 22 to match a desired reflection illuminated area 10C on the sample 10. Stated another way, the reflection illumination lens assembly 26 can be used to condition and focus the second illumination beam 22 so that the second illumination beam 22 has the desired beam profile on the sample 10.

[0043] Figure 1C is a simplified schematic illustration of the sample 10 including the reflection illuminated area 10C. In certain embodiments, the two-dimensional reflection illumination area 10C is rectangular shaped. More particularly, in some such embodiments, the two-dimensional reflection illumination area 10C can be square shaped. For example, in alternative, non-exclusive embodiments, the reflection illumination lens assembly 26 can adjust the size of the second illumination beam 22 so that the reflection illuminated area 10C on the sample 10 is at least approximately (i) two hundred and fifty microns (250 µm) by two hundred and fifty microns (250 µm); (ii) five hundred microns (500 µm) by five hundred microns (500 µm); (iii) seven hundred and fifty microns (750 µm) by seven hundred and fifty microns (750 µm); (iv) one millimeter (1 mm) by one millimeter (1 mm); (v) one and a half millimeter (1.5 mm) by one and a half millimeter (1.5 mm); and (vi) two millimeters (2 mm) by two millimeters (2 mm); or (vii) three millimeters (3 mm) by three millimeters (3 mm). Still alternatively, the reflection illuminated area 10C can have a non-square shape. As non-exclusive examples, the transmission illumination lens assembly 24 can adjust the size of the first illumination beam 20 so that the transmission illuminated area 10A on the sample 10 is at least approximately two hundred microns (200 µm) by three hundred microns (300 µm); or (iii) fifty microns (50 µm) by five hundred microns (500 µm). Alternatively, the reflection illumination lens assembly 26 can adjust the size of the second illumination beam 22 so that the reflection illuminated area 10C on the sample 10 has a different size or shape than the examples provided above. For example, in alternative, non-exclusive embodiments, the reflection illumination lens assembly 26 can adjust the size of the second illumination beam 22 so that the reflection illuminated area 10C is at least approximately 20, 30, 30, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, or 100 millimeters squared. Still alternatively, for example, the two-dimensional reflection illuminated area 10C can be circular or oval shaped.

[0044] Further, as shown in Figure 1C, the reflection illuminated area 10C can be an effectively illuminated area (has substantially uniform intensity) that exists within a larger, fully illuminated area 10D that is illuminated by the second illumination beam 22 (illustrated in Figure 1A). As illustrated, the fully illuminated area 10D can be substantially circular shaped and can be the result of the second illumination beam 22 having a substantially circular shaped cross-section. Alternatively, the second illumination beam 22, and thus the fully illuminated area 10C can have another shape.

[0045] Referring back to Figure 1A, in certain embodiments, the reflection illumination lens assembly 26 transforms the size and profile of the second illumination beam 22 as desired without splitting and recombining the illumination rays 22I into multiple paths that, if recombined, can cause interference at the sample 10. Stated another way, the reflection illumination lens assembly 26 directs the illumination rays 22I of the second illumination beam 22 at the sample 10 without splitting and recombining the illumination rays 22I.

[0046] Additionally, in alternative embodiments, the reflection illumination lens assembly 26 can be positioned such that the second illumination beam 22 passes through the reflection illumination lens assembly 26 before and/or after the second illumination beam 22 is redirected by the redirector 28.

[0047] The redirector 28 is utilized to initially redirect the second illumination beam 22 so that the second illumination beam 22 can be properly directed toward a side (e.g. the bottom or the top depending on the design) of the sample 10 that will reflect the second illumination beam 22 toward the imaging lens assembly 16. The design of the redirector 28 can be varied. In one embodiment, the redirector 28 can be a mirror (reflective in the desired wavelength spectrum) which is positioned so as to redirect the path of the second illumination beam 22 by approximately ninety degrees. Alternatively, the redirector 28 can have a different design and/or the redirector 28 can be positioned so as to redirect the path of the second illumination beam 22 by greater than or less than approximately ninety degrees. Still alternatively, the redirector 28 can include a curved mirror that conditions the second illumination beam 22 (i) to complement the reflection illumination lens assembly 26, or (ii) to allow for the elimination of a portion or all o fhte reflection illumination lens assembly 26.

[0048] Moreover, in reflection mode, in Figure 1A, the second illumination beam 22 is directed at the sample 10 with the transmitter-redirector 30 to avoid multiple beam paths, and to decrease the number of paths the reflected or scattered second illumination beam 22 can take when traveling from the sample 10 to the image sensor 18. The design of the transmitter-redirector 30 can be varied to suit the specific requirements of the imaging microscope 12. In certain embodiments, the transmitter-redirector 30 can be a beam splitter, e.g., a fifty percent (50%) beam splitter, which redirects a first portion 22F of the illumination rays 22I of the second illumination beam 22 toward the sample 10, and transmits a second portion (not shown) of the illumination rays 22I of the second illumination beam 22. The second portion of the second illumination beam 22 is subsequently directed away from the system and not used by the imaging microscope 12. It should be noted that the second (or discarded) portion of the second illumination beam 22 that is generated from this first pass through the transmitter-redirector 30 is not shown in Figure 1A for purposes of clarity.

[0049] With the second illumination beam 22 being redirected by the transmitter-redirector 30 before impinging on the sample 10, as provided above, the reflection illumination lens assembly 26 can be used to transform the second illumination beam 22 so that it provides illumination for the two-dimensional reflection illuminated area 10C across the sample 10, instead of being focused to a point by the first lens 32 of the imaging lens assembly 16. In certain embodiments, the transmitter-redirector 30 can be made from a variety of infrared transmissive materials, such as ZnSe or Ge, or other materials. Additionally, the transmitter-redirector 30 can be a plano-plano beam splitter, with one side anti-reflection (AR) coated, and the other coated or uncoated for partial reflectivity. The transmitter-redirector 30 can also provide lensing action for transforming the second illumination beam 22 as desired. The transmitter-redirector 30 can also incorporate design elements to eliminate first and second surface interference effects due to the coherent nature of the illumination beam 22. As non-exclusive examples, design elements that would reduce the surface interference effects include anti-reflective coatings (for the wavelength of the beam), wedged elements, and/or curved optical surfaces.

[0050] The stage assembly 15 retains the sample 10, and can be used to properly position the sample 10. For example, the stage assembly 15 can include a stage 15A that retains sample 10, and stage mover 15B that selectively moves the stage 15A and the sample 10. For example, the stage mover 15B can include one or more actuators, or stage 15A can be manually positioned.

[0051] When the illumination rays 20I of the first illumination beam 20 are illuminating the sample 10, at least a portion of the transmitted rays 20T that are transmitted through the sample 10 are received by the imaging lens assembly 16 and imaged on the image sensor 18. Somewhat similarly, when the illumination rays 22I of the second illumination beam 22 are illuminating the sample 10, at least a portion of the reflected rays 22R that are reflected from the sample 10 are received by the imaging lens assembly 16 and imaged on the image sensor 18. Stated in another fashion, the imaging lens assembly 16 receives at least a portion of the transmitted rays 20T that are transmitted through the sample 10, or at least a portion of the reflected rays 22R that are reflected from the sample 10 and forms an image on the image sensor 18.

[0052] As utilized herein, the term "imaged rays" 18A shall mean the transmitted rays 20T or the reflected rays 22R that are collected by the imaging lens assembly 16 and imaged on the image sensor 18. As provided herein, the imaging lens assembly 16 receives the imaged rays 18A from a plurality of points on the sample 10 and forms the image on the image sensor 18 without splitting and recombining the imaged rays 18A. This reduces interference effects at the image sensor 18.

[0053] In one embodiment, the imaging lens assembly 16 can include a first lens 32 and a second lens 34 that cooperate to form an image of the sample 10 on the image sensor 18. Alternatively, the imaging lens assembly 16 can include greater than two lenses or only one lens.

[0054] In one embodiment, the first lens 32 can be an objective lens that collects the imaged rays 18A, and focuses the imaged rays 18A on the image sensor 18. Moreover, as illustrated, the first lens 32 is positioned substantially between the sample 10 and the second lens 34. Additionally, in one embodiment, the second lens 34 can be a projection lens that projects the imaged rays 18A toward the image sensor 18. Moreover, as illustrated, the second lens 34 is positioned substantially between the first lens 32 and the image sensor 18. Further, in one embodiment, one or both of the lenses 32, 34 can be refractive in the MIR range or the wavelength of the illumination beam. Still further, one or both of the lenses 32, 34 can be a compound lens.

[0055] Each of the lenses 32, 34 can be types such as plano-convex, plano-concave, miniscus, and aspherical, as well as other types. For refractive lenses, materials such as ZnSe, Ge, chalcogenide glass, and other materials can be employed. Reflective lenses can be elliptical, paraboloid, or other shapes. The reflective surface can be dichroic coating, Au, Ag, or other surface types. In one non-exclusive embodiment, the first lens 32, i.e. the objective lens, can be a 10 millimeter diameter, 10 millimeter focal length, plano-aspheric Ge lens, and the second lens 34, i.e. the projection lens, can be a 20 millimeter diameter, 50 millimeter focal length plano-convex Ge lens. This provides a magnification of 5X at the image sensor 18, allowing an image resolution of 3.4 µm for a 17 µm pitch pixel. It should be noted that the resolution of the image sensor 18 is described in more detail below. Alternatively, other lenses are possible that allow different magnifications. Single and compound lenses that are designed to be achromats over the desired infrared spectral region can also be used.

[0056] Further, as shown in the embodiment illustrated in Figure 1A, the transmitted rays 20T or the reflected rays 22R that are collected by the first lens 32 are directed at the transmitter-redirector 30 that is positioned between the first lens 32 and the second lens 34 in this example. In this embodiment, if the transmitter-redirector 30 is a fifty percent (50%) beam splitter, the transmitted rays 20T or the reflected rays 22R that are collected by the first lens 32 are split into (i) the imaged rays 18A that are imaged on the image sensor 18, and (ii) discarded rays that are directed away from the image sensor 18.

[0057] The image sensor 18 senses the imaged rays 18A and converts the imaged rays 18A (the optical image) into an array of electronic signals that represents an image of the sample.

[0058] In certain embodiments, the image sensor 18 includes a two dimensional array of photosensitive elements (pixels) (e.g. a focal plane array (FPA)) that are sensitive to the wavelength of the illumination beams 20I, 22I that are used to construct a two-dimensional image. The spacing between the pixel elements is referred to as the pitch of the array. For example, if the illumination beams 20I, 22I are in the MIR range, the image sensor 18 is a MIR imager. More specifically, if the illumination beams 20I, 22I are in the infrared spectral region from two to twenty µm, the image sensor 18 is sensitive to the infrared spectral region from two to twenty µm.

[0059] Examples of suitable infrared image sensors 18 include (i) vanadium oxide (VOx) microbolometer arrays such as the FPA in the FLIR Tau 640 infrared camera that are typically responsive in the seven to fourteen µm spectral range; (ii) mercury cadmium telluride (HgCdTe or MCT) arrays such as those in the FLIR Orion SC7000 Series cameras that are responsive in the 7.7 to 11.5 µm spectral range; (iii) indium antimonide (InSb) arrays such as those in the FLIR Orion SC7000 Series cameras that are responsive in the 1.5 to 5.5 µm spectral range; (iv) indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs); (v) uncooled hybrid arrays involving VOx and other materials from DRS that are responsive in the two to twenty µm spectral range; or (vi) any other type of image sensor 18 that is designed to be sensitive to infrared light in the two to twenty µm range and has electronics allowing reading out of each element's signal level to generate a two-dimensional array of image information.

[0060] In alternative, non-exclusive embodiments, the pixel dimensions for the image sensor 18 can be five, eight, ten, twelve, thirteen, seventeen, twenty-five, thirty-five, and fifty µm per side, for example. Additionally, the pixels can be square, rectangular, or any other shape. As non-exclusive examples, the image sensor 18 can be designed to include a 50 x 50 array of pixels; a 100 x 100 array of pixels, a 200 x 200 array of pixels, a 320 x 240 array of pixels, a 400 x 400 array of pixels, a 500 x 500 array of pixels, a 640 x 480 array of pixels, or another sized array of pixels. Further, the arrays can be square or rectangular, or masked for a specific shape, either physically or through data processing.

[0061] In one non-exclusive example, the image sensor 18 can be a microbolometer array having a pixel pitch of 17 µm and a frame size of 640 x 512, resulting in a physical FPA size of 10.88 mm x 8.7 mm. With five times magnification for the first lens 32, i.e. the objective lens, and the second lens 34, i.e. the projection lens, this results in an area imaged at the sample 10 of 2.2 mm x 1.7 mm. Therefore, the size of the illumination beam 20, 22 should be sufficient to provide illumination across this area on the sample 10. If the 95% beam diameter is at least three millimeters, the illumination beam 20, 22 can provide appropriate illumination across the sample 10 as necessary.

[0062] In certain embodiments, the present invention allows the use of lower priced, room temperature image sensors 18, e.g., FPAs such as microbolometers. These FPAs require lower power consumption and have smaller overall volume, such that field-deployable and commercial instruments become more practical. Additionally, the use of tunable infrared lasers, such as QC lasers 14A, 14B, generates enough light to allow the use of these less-sensitive room temperature FPAs. In particular, the use of such an FPA allows for a complete image to be captured at each wavelength. Moreover, due to the higher power provided by such lasers14A, 14B , less signal averaging is thus required, meaning that it is possible to rapidly tune the laser 14A, 14B and then build up a spectral image cube for analysis in tens of seconds, rather than the minutes generally required for FTIR microscopes.

[0063] As a non-exclusive example, tunable infrared lasers, such as QC lasers 14A, 14B, can generate between approximately 0.2 mW to 20mW at a single wavelength. This will provide enough intensity to overcome the background pixel noise level of less-sensitive microbolometer arrays.

[0064] As provided herein, in certain embodiments, the imaging device 12 is designed so that (i) the illumination rays 20I generated by the first laser source 14A are directed at the sample 10 without splitting and recombining the illumination rays 20I, e.g. illumination rays 20I follow a single path to the sample 10; (ii) the illumination rays 22I generated by the second laser source 14B are directed at the sample 10 without splitting and recombining the illumination rays 22I, e.g. the illumination rays 22I follow a single path to the sample 10; and (iii) the imaged rays 18A travel from the sample 10 to the image sensor 18 without splitting and recombining the imaged rays 18A, e.g. the imaged rays 18A follow a predominantly single path to the image sensor 18. With this design, potential drawbacks from the use of a temporally coherent light source, such as certain interference effects, e.g., interference fringes, can be avoided. Spatial coherence occurs when the variation in the electric field wavefront of the light is similar across an illuminated area. The effects on imaging of spatial coherence include speckle and diffraction. Temporal coherence means that the electric field of the light exhibits the same oscillation pattern over a significant period of time, such as a sinusoidal oscillation. Whereas spatial coherence can occur even for waves that do not have a regular, sinusoidal electric field, temporal coherence requires a periodic, regular oscillation in the electric field. This presents a particular challenge for imaging because laser light originating from a single source, which is subsequently split such that portions of the laser light travel different paths, and which is then recombined, can exhibit interference effects. For example, the effects of temporal coherence can be seen in terms of interference fringes. More particularly, light emanating from an illuminating laser that is split and allowed to travel two separate paths before being rejoined at a sample, can result in interference fringes being evident on an illuminated sample. As detailed herein, the present design effectively enables such potential drawbacks to be avoided.

[0065] Additionally, as illustrated in Figure 1A, the imaging microscope 12 can further include and/or be coupled to a processing device 36 that includes one or more processors and/or storage devices. For example, the processing device 36 can receive information from the pixels of the image sensor 18 and generate the image of the sample. Further, the processing device 36 can control the operation of the laser sources 14A, 14B and the stage assembly 15.

[0066] Figure 2 is a simplified schematic illustration of the sample 10 and another embodiment of an imaging microscope 212 having features of the present invention. The imaging microscope 212 illustrated in Figure 2 is somewhat similar to the imaging microscope 12 illustrated and described above in relation to Figure 1A. For example, the imaging microscope 212 includes a temporally coherent beam source 214 that includes a laser source 214A, a stage assembly 215, an imaging lens assembly 216, an image sensor 218, and a processing device 236 that are somewhat similar to the corresponding components illustrated and described above in relation to Figure 1A. However, in the embodiment illustrated in Figure 2, the imaging microscope 212 is designed to only function in the transmission mode with an in line format, and the imaging microscope 212 does not function in the reflection mode.

[0067] In this embodiment, because the imaging microscope 212 is only designed to function in transmission mode, the imaging microscope 212 can be designed without the illumination optics that are included in the embodiment illustrated in Figure 1A to enable the imaging microscope 12 to alternatively function in reflection mode. Accordingly, in this embodiment, the imaging microscope 212 does not include the reflection illumination lens assembly 26, the redirector 28 and the transmitter-redirector 30 that are at least optionally included in the embodiment illustrated in Figure 1A.

[0068] Similar to the previous embodiment, the temporally coherent beam source 214 emits a temporally coherent illumination beam 220 that includes a plurality of illumination rays 220I for illuminating and analyzing the sample 10 in transmission mode.

[0069] The transmission illumination lens assembly 224 can again adjust the illumination beam 220 so that the illumination beam 220 illuminates a two dimensional transmission illuminated area, e.g., the transmission illuminated area 10A illustrated in Figure 1B, on the sample 10 all at once.

[0070] Subsequently, at least some of the transmitted rays 220T that are transmitted through the sample 10 are then directed toward the image sensor 218 with the imaging lens assembly 216. The transmitted rays 220T collected by the imaging lens assembly 216 and directed at the image sensor 218 are referred to as imaged rays 218A. As with the previous embodiment, the imaging lens assembly 216 can include a first lens 232 and a second lens 234 that cooperate to form an image of the sample 10 on the image sensor 218. Alternatively, the imaging lens assembly 216 can include greater than two lenses or only one lens.

[0071] Figure 3 is a simplified schematic illustration of the sample 10 and still another embodiment of an imaging microscope 312 having features of the present invention. The imaging microscope 312 illustrated in Figure 3 is somewhat similar to the imaging microscope 12 illustrated and described above in relation to Figure 1A. For example, the imaging microscope 312 includes a temporally coherent beam source 314 with a laser source 314B, a stage assembly 315, an imaging lens assembly 316, an image sensor 318, and a processing device 336 that are somewhat similar to corresponding components illustrated and described above in relation to Figure 1A. However, in the embodiment illustrated in Figure 3, the imaging microscope 312 is designed to only function in the reflection mode, and the imaging microscope 312 does not function in the transmission mode. More particularly, because the imaging microscope 312 is only designed to function in reflection mode, the imaging microscope 312 can be designed without the transmission illumination lens assembly 24 that is at least optionally included in the embodiment illustrated in Figure 1A.

[0072] Similar to the previous embodiment, the temporally coherent beam source 314 emits a temporally coherent illumination beam 322 that includes a plurality of illumination rays 322I for illuminating and analyzing the sample 10 in reflection mode.

[0073] The reflection illumination lens assembly 326 can again adjust the illumination beam 322 so that the illumination beam 322 illuminates a two dimensional reflection illuminated area, e.g., the reflection illuminated area 10C illustrated in Figure 1C, on the sample 10 all at once.

[0074] Subsequently, at least some of the reflected rays 322R that are reflected from the sample 10 are then directed toward the image sensor 318 with the imaging lens assembly 316. The reflected rays 322R collected by the imaging lens assembly 316 and directed at the image sensor 318 are referred to as imaged rays 318A. As with the previous embodiment, the imaging lens assembly 316 can include a first lens 332 and a second lens 334 that cooperate to form an image of the sample 10 on the image sensor 318. Alternatively, the imaging lens assembly 316 can include greater than two lenses or only one lens.

[0075] In this embodiment, the reflection illumination lens assembly 326 again includes one or more lenses 326A (two are illustrated in Figure 3), a redirector 328, and a transmitter-redirector 330 that are similar to the corresponding components described above and illustrated in Figure 1A.

[0076] Figure 4 is a simplified flowchart demonstrating the use of an imaging microscope having features of the present invention to analyze a sample. Although it is disclosed that the steps employed in the use of the imaging microscope are performed in a certain order, it should be noted that the steps can be performed in a different order, and/or one or more of the steps can be combined or eliminated without altering the overall intended scope and breadth of the present invention.

[0077] Initially, in step 401, a sample is obtained that it is desired to analyze utilizing the imaging microscope. Additionally, in step 403, the sample is visually inspected to determine whether the sample is appropriate for analysis in transmission mode or reflection mode. In particular, if the sample is thin and/or substantially transparent, then the sample is more appropriate for analysis in the transmission mode. Alternatively, if the sample is substantially opaque such that the illumination beam will likely be reflected by the sample, then the sample is more appropriate for analysis in the reflection mode.

[0078] In step 405, the sample is positioned near a temporally coherent beam source within the imaging microscope for analysis. Further, in step 407, the temporally coherent beam source of the imaging microscope, e.g., a laser source that operates in the infrared spectral region between two and twenty µm, is tuned to a particular wavelength.

[0079] Then, in step 409, the beam source is activated in order to generate a first image of the sample. As disclosed herein above, the beam source illuminates a two-dimensional area of the sample all at once, which is then imaged onto an image sensor, e.g., an image sensor that is responsive somewhere in the infrared spectral region from two to twenty µm, through one or more lenses, e.g., an objective lens and a projection lens. The illumination provided by the beam source is necessarily controlled so that a set of single path rays from the illumination beam traverses a single path before impinging on the sample and between the sample and the image sensor. Stated another way, the illumination provided by the beam source is controlled so that the set of single path rays are not split and recombined between the beam source and the sample, and the set of single path rays are not split and recombined between the sample and the image sensor.

[0080] If it has been determined that the imaging microscope should be appropriately utilized in transmission mode for the particular sample being analyzed, then the beam source should be activated so as to substantially directly illuminate the sample. Alternatively, if it has been determined that the imaging microscope should be appropriately utilized in reflection mode for the particular sample being analyzed, then the beam source should be activated so as to illuminate the back side of the sample utilizing the appropriate optical elements. It should be noted that if an insufficient image is generated with the imaging microscope in the mode chosen, i.e. either transmission mode or reflection mode, then the alternative mode can be activated to provide a more sufficient and/or appropriate image generated from the sample.

[0081] In step 411, the beam source is deactivated, i.e. is turned off, and a second image of the sample is captured by the image sensor without the use of the temporally coherent beam source. Then, in step 413, the second image of the sample acquired without the beam source is subtracted from the first image of the sample acquired utilizing the beam source to create a differential image of the sample that consists entirely of transmitted or reflected light from the beam source.

[0082] Subsequently, in step 415, the process of steps 407 through 413 is repeated as necessary with the beam source tuned to additional appropriate wavelengths. This creates a set of images at different wavelengths of the beam source, known as a spectral image cube, or hypercube. Then, in step 417, the spectral image cube can be analyzed at each pixel or set of pixels to generate a transmission or reflection spectrum. Next, in step 419, the spectrum can then be analyzed to determine properties of the sample at different positions across the sample. These properties can be chemical, structural, or phase, for example. Finally, in step 421, the analyzed data is then used to create a two-dimensional map of sample properties that can be visually overlaid on a picture of the sample to identify regions of the sample with different sample properties.

[0083] In summary, as disclosed herein, the present invention allows the creation of an infrared imaging microscope for spectral analysis that has many advantages over traditional technology based on FTIR spectrometers. In particular, the present invention is meant to deal with the difficulties of illumination and imaging with a temporally coherent illumination beam that originates from a temporally coherent beam source such as a laser. As disclosed herein, the way to provide uniform, interference fringe free illumination is to eliminate multiple beam paths from the beam source to the sample 10, and from the sample 10 to the image sensor. More specifically, as provided herein, the optics are designed to allow interference-free illumination of a sample by using a illumination beam that has been transformed through reflections and lens elements alone, and not split into different paths and recombined. Similarly, the optics train for imaging the sample 10 onto the image sensor, e.g., onto a focal plane array, is meant to interact with the largely single transmission or reflection beam path from the laser illumination, and to map this to the image sensor without splitting into different paths and recombining.

[0084] In one embodiment, the imaging microscope can include a illumination beam, e.g., an infrared laser beam from a tunable QC laser, which can be directly pointed to the sample 10 in transmission mode. In such embodiment, the illumination beam, e.g., an infrared laser beam, can have an extent of approximately 3 mm x 3 mm, so it illuminates the sample 10 nearly uniformly, without visible interference fringes. This direct illumination removes multiple beam paths. Without this invention, illumination with such an illumination beam would produce significant interference effects due to the temporal coherence of the beam source. With the invention, these effects are gone, allowing fast acquisition of an image with no interference artifacts.

[0085] Additionally, in reflection mode, the illumination beam can be coupled in through a transmitter-redirector, e.g., a beam splitter, to provide the same effect. Because the illumination beam traverses an objective lens before impinging on the sample 10, an illumination lens can be employed to project the illumination beam onto the sample 10 with sufficient extent to provide sufficient illumination.

[0086] Moreover, the present invention allows the use of a compact optical train based on refractive optical components. This in turn lends itself to a compact instrument design that is easier to manufacture, more robust for field deployment, and more cost effective for commercial products.

[0087] In the following, several examples of the present disclosure will be described.

Example 1 is an imaging microscope for generating an image of a sample, the imaging microscope comprising:

a beam source that emits a temporally coherent illumination beam, the illumination beam including a plurality of rays that are directed at the sample;

an image sensor that converts an optical image into an array of electronic signals; and

an imaging lens assembly that receives rays from the beam source that are transmitted through the sample and forms an image on the image sensor.

Example 2 is an imaging microscope of example 1 wherein the imaging lens assembly further receives rays from the beam source that are reflected off of the sample and forms a second image on the image sensor.

Example 3 is an imaging microscope of example 1 further comprising an illumination lens assembly that directs the illumination beam at the sample, the illumination lens assembly adjusting the illumination beam so that the illumination beam illuminates a two-dimensional illuminated area on the sample all at once, and wherein the image sensor includes a two-dimensional array of sensors.

Example 4 is an imaging microscope of example 3 wherein the beam source is a MIR beam source and the illumination beam is at a beam wavelength that is within the MIR range; and wherein the illumination lens assembly is refractive in the MIR range.

Example 5 is an imaging microscope of example 3 wherein the illumination lens assembly directs the illumination beam at the sample without splitting and recombining the illumination beam.

Example 6 is an imaging microscope of example 3 wherein the illumination lens assembly magnifies the illumination beam.

Example 7 is an imaging microscope of example 3 wherein the illumination lens assembly adjusts the size of the illumination beam so that the illuminated area on the sample is at least approximately twenty millimeters squared.

Example 8 is an imaging microscope of example 7 wherein the beam source is a MIR beam source and the illumination beam is at a beam wavelength that is within the MIR range; and wherein the illumination lens assembly is refractive in the MIR range.

Example 9 is an imaging microscope of example 1 wherein the imaging lens assembly includes a refractive lens that directs the rays received by the imaging lens assembly.

Example 10 is an imaging microscope of example 1 wherein the imaging lens assembly receives the rays from a plurality of points on the sample and forms the image on the image sensor without splitting and recombining the received rays.

Example 11 is an imaging microscope of example 1 wherein the imaging lens assembly collimates the received rays.

Example 12 is an imaging microscope for generating an image of a sample, the imaging microscope comprising:

a beam source that emits a temporally coherent illumination beam, the illumination beam including a plurality of rays that are directed at the sample;

an image sensor that converts an optical image into an array of electronic signals; and

an imaging lens assembly that receives rays from the beam source that are reflected off of the sample and forms an image on the image sensor.

Example 13 is an imaging microscope of example 12 wherein the imaging lens assembly includes an objective lens and a projection lens, and wherein the imaging microscope further includes a beam splitter positioned between the objective lens and the projection lens, the beam splitter redirecting the illumination beam at the sample, and the beam splitter transmitting a portion of the rays received by the imaging lens assembly.

Example 14 is an imaging microscope of example 12 further comprising an illumination lens assembly that directs the illumination beam at the sample, the illumination lens assembly adjusting the illumination beam so that the illumination beam illuminates a two-dimensional illuminated area on the sample all at once, and wherein the image sensor includes a two-dimensional array of sensors.

Example 15 is an imaging microscope of example 14 wherein the beam source is a MIR beam source and the illumination beam is at a beam wavelength that is within the MIR range; and wherein the illumination lens assembly is refractive in the MIR range.

Example 16 is an imaging microscope of example 14 wherein the illumination lens assembly directs the illumination beam at the sample without splitting and recombining the illumination beam.

Example 17 is an imaging microscope of example 14 wherein the illumination lens assembly magnifies the illumination beam.

Example 18 is an imaging microscope of example 14 wherein the illumination lens assembly adjusts the size of the illumination beam so that the illuminated area on the sample is at least approximately twenty millimeters squared.

Example 19 is an imaging microscope of example 12 wherein the imaging lens assembly includes a refractive lens that directs the rays received by the imaging lens assembly.

Example 20 is an imaging microscope of example 12 wherein the imaging lens assembly receives the rays from a plurality of points on the sample and forms the image on the image sensor without splitting and recombining the received rays.

Example 21 is an imaging microscope of example 12 wherein the imaging lens assembly collimates the received rays.

Example 22 is a method for generating an image of a sample, the method comprising the steps of:

emitting a temporally coherent illumination beam with a beam source, the illumination beam including a plurality of rays;

directing the plurality of rays at the sample;

converting an optical image into an array of electronic signals with an image sensor;

receiving rays from the beam source that are transmitted through the sample with an imaging lens assembly; and

forming an image on the image sensor with the rays received from the beam source by the imaging lens assembly that are transmitted through the sample.

Example 23 is a method of example 22 further comprising the steps of receiving rays from the beam source that are reflected off of the sample with the imaging lens assembly; and forming a second image on the image sensor with the rays received from the beam source by the imaging lens assembly that are reflected off of the sample.

Example 24 is a method for generating an image of a sample, the method comprising the steps of:

emitting a temporally coherent illumination beam with a beam source, the illumination beam including a plurality of rays;

directing the plurality of rays at the sample;

converting an optical image into an array of electronic signals with an image sensor;

receiving rays from the beam source that are reflected off of the sample with an imaging lens assembly; and

forming an image on the image sensor with the rays received from the beam source by the imaging lens assembly that are reflected off of the sample.

Example 25 is a method of example 24 wherein the step of receiving includes the imaging lens assembly having an objective lens and a projection lens, and further comprising the steps of redirecting the illumination beam at the sample with a beam splitter positioned between the objective lens and the projection lens, and transmitting a portion of the rays received by the imaging lens assembly with the beam splitter.

Example 26 is an imaging microscope for generating an image of a sample, the imaging microscope comprising:

a beam source that emits a temporally coherent illumination beam, the illumination beam including a plurality of rays;

a reflection illumination lens assembly that conditions the illumination beams and directs the plurality of rays at the sample to simultaneously illuminate a broad reflection illumination area;

an image sensor that converts an optical image into an array of electronic signals; and

an imaging lens assembly that receives rays from the beam source that are reflected off of the sample and forms an image on the image sensor, wherein the imaging lens assembly includes a lens that is used as an objective of the rays reflected off of the sample; wherein the illumination beam is directed through the lens at the sample.



[0088] While a number of exemplary aspects and embodiments of an imaging microscope 12 have been discussed above, those of skill in the art will recognize certain modifications, permutations, additions and sub-combinations thereof. It is therefore intended that the following appended claims and claims hereafter introduced are interpreted to include all such modifications, permutations, additions and sub-combinations as are within their true spirit and scope.


Claims

1. An infrared imaging microscope (12) for generating an image of a sample (10), the infrared imaging microscope (12) comprising:

a beam source (14) that emits a temporally coherent first illumination beam (22) that is within the infrared range, the beam source (14) including a laser that emits the first illumination beam (22), the first illumination beam (22) including a plurality of rays that are directed at the sample (10);

an image sensor (18) that converts an optical image into an array of electronic signals, the image sensor (18) including a two-dimensional array of sensors; and

an imaging lens assembly (16) that receives rays from the beam source (14) that are reflected off of the sample (10) and forms an image on the image sensor (18);

wherein the imaging lens assembly (16) receives the rays reflected from a plurality of points on the sample (10) and forms the image on the image sensor (18) without splitting and recombining the received rays.


 
2. The infrared imaging microscope (12) of claim 1 wherein the imaging lens assembly (16) includes an objective lens and a projection lens, and wherein the imaging microscope (12) further includes a beam splitter (30) positioned between the objective lens and the projection lens, the beam splitter (30) redirecting the illumination beam 22 at the sample, and the beam splitter transmitting a portion of the rays received by the imaging lens assembly.
 
3. The infrared imaging microscope (12) of claim 2 wherein the objective lens and the projection lens are refractive, and wherein the first illumination beam (22) is directed through the refractive objective lens at the sample (10).
 
4. The infrared imaging microscope (12) of claim 1 further comprising a reflection illumination lens assembly (26) that conditions the first illumination beam (22) and directs the plurality of rays at the sample (10) to simultaneously illuminate a broad reflection illumination area;
 
5. The infrared imaging microscope (12) of claim 1, wherein the beam source (14) emits a temporally coherent second illumination beam (20) that is within the infrared range, the infrared imaging microscope (12) further comprising an illumination lens assembly (24) that directs the second illumination beam (20) at the sample (10) in a transmission mode of the imaging microscope (12), the illumination lens assembly (24) adjusting the second illumination beam (20) so that the second illumination beam (20) illuminates a two-dimensional illuminated area on the sample (10) all at once.
 
6. The infrared imaging microscope (12) of claim 5 wherein the beam source (14) is a MIR beam source and the second illumination beam (20) is at a beam wavelength that is within the MIR range; and wherein the illumination lens assembly (24) is refractive in the MIR range.
 
7. The infrared imaging microscope (12) of claim 5 wherein the illumination lens assembly (24) directs the second illumination beam (20) at the sample (10) without splitting and recombining the second illumination beam (20).
 
8. The infrared imaging microscope (12) of claim 5 wherein the illumination lens assembly (24) magnifies the second illumination beam (20).
 
9. The infrared imaging microscope (12) of claim 5 wherein the illumination lens assembly (24) adjusts the size of the second illumination beam (20) so that the illuminated area on the sample (10) is at least approximately twenty millimeters squared.
 
10. The infrared imaging microscope (12) of claim 5 wherein the beam source (14) is an MIR beam source and each illumination beam (20), (22) is at a beam wavelength that is within the MIR range; and wherein the illumination lens assembly (24) is refractive in the MIR range.
 
11. The infrared imaging microscope (12) of claim 1 wherein the imaging lens assembly (16) includes a refractive lens that directs the rays received by the imaging lens assembly (16), or wherein the imaging lens assembly (16) collimates the received rays.
 
12. The infrared imaging microscope (12) of claim 1, wherein the laser is a tunable infrared laser, preferably a Quantum Cascade laser.
 
13. A method for generating an image of a sample (10), the method comprising the steps of:

emitting a temporally coherent illumination beam (22) that is within the infrared range with a beam source (14) of an infrared imaging microscope (12), the illumination beam (22) including a plurality of rays;

directing the plurality of rays at the sample (10) so that the illumination beam (22) illuminates a two-dimensional reflection illumination area on the sample (10) all at once;

receiving rays from the beam source (14) that are reflected off of the sample (10) and forming an optical image on an image sensor (18) of the infrared imaging microscope (12) with an imaging lens assembly (16) of the infrared imaging microscope (12); wherein the imaging lens assembly (16) receives the rays reflected from a plurality of points on the sample (10) and forms the image on the image sensor (18) without splitting and recombining the received rays; and

converting the optical image into an array of electronic signals with the image sensor (18).


 
14. The method of claim 13 wherein the step of receiving includes the imaging lens assembly (16) having an objective lens and a projection lens, and further comprising the steps of redirecting the illumination beam (22) at the sample (10) with a beam splitter (30) positioned between the objective lens and the projection lens, and transmitting a portion of the rays received by the imaging lens assembly (16) with the beam splitter (30).
 
15. The method of claim 13 wherein the step of directing the plurality of rays at the sample (10) with a reflection illumination lens assembly (26) of the infrared imaging microscope (12) to simultaneously illuminate a broad reflection illumination area.
 




Drawing




















REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

Patent documents cited in the description