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Opt Express. 2008 Nov 24;16(24):19821-9.

Phase contrast microscopy with full numerical aperture illumination.

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  • 1Division for Biomedical Physics, Innsbruck Medical University, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria.


A modification of the phase contrast method in microscopy is presented, which reduces inherent artifacts and improves the spatial resolution. In standard Zernike phase contrast microscopy the illumination is achieved through an annular ring aperture, and the phase filtering operation is performed by a corresponding phase ring in the back focal plane of the objective. The Zernike method increases the spatial resolution as compared to plane wave illumination, but it also produces artifacts, such as the halo- and the shade-off effect. Our modification consists in replacing the illumination ring by a set of point apertures which are randomly distributed over the whole aperture of the condenser, and in replacing the Zernike phase ring by a matched set of point-like phase shifters in the back focal plane of the objective. Experimentally this is done by illuminating the sample with light diffracted from a phase hologram displayed at a spatial light modulator (SLM). The subsequent filtering operation is then done with a second matched phase hologram displayed at another SLM in a Fourier plane of the imaging pathway. This method significantly reduces the halo- and shade-off artifacts whilst providing the full spatial resolution of the microscope.

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