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Biophys J. 1991 Dec;60(6):1374-87.

Time resolved imaging microscopy. Phosphorescence and delayed fluorescence imaging.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology, Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, Federal Republic of Germany.


An optical microscope capable of measuring time resolved luminescence (phosphorescence and delayed fluorescence) images has been developed. The technique employs two phase-locked mechanical choppers and a slow-scan scientific CCD camera attached to a normal fluorescence microscope. The sample is illuminated by a periodic train of light pulses and the image is recorded within a defined time interval after the end of each excitation period. The time resolution discriminates completely against light scattering, reflection, autofluorescence, and extraneous prompt fluorescence, which ordinarily decrease contrast in normal fluorescence microscopy measurements. Time resolved image microscopy produces a high contrast image and particular structures can be emphasized by displaying a new parameter, the ratio of the phosphorescence to fluorescence. Objects differing in luminescence decay rates are easily resolved. The lifetime of the long lived luminescence can be measured at each pixel of the microscope image by analyzing a series of images that differ by a variable time delay. The distribution of luminescence decay rates is displayed directly as an image. Several examples demonstrate the utility of the instrument and the complementarity it offers to conventional fluorescence microscopy.

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