Coherent Raman imaging techniques have seen a dramatic increase in activity over the past decade due to their promise to enable label-free optical imaging with high molecular specificity. The sensitivity of these techniques, however, is many orders of magnitude weaker than fluorescence, requiring milli-molar molecular concentrations. Here, we describe a technique that can enable the detection of weak or low concentrations of Raman-active molecules by amplifying their signal with that obtained from strong or abundant Raman scatterers. The interaction of short pulsed lasers in a biological sample generates a variety of coherent Raman scattering signals, each of which carry unique chemical information about the sample. Typically, only one of these signals, e.g. Coherent Anti-stokes Raman scattering (CARS), is used to generate an image while the others are discarded. However, when these other signals, including 3-color CARS and four-wave mixing (FWM), are collected and compared to the CARS signal, otherwise difficult to detect information can be extracted. For example, doubly-resonant CARS (DR-CARS) is the result of the constructive interference between two resonant signals. We demonstrate how tuning of the three lasers required to produce DR-CARS signals to the 2845 cm-1 CH stretch vibration in lipids and the 2120 cm-1 CD stretching vibration of a deuterated molecule (e.g. deuterated sugars, fatty acids, etc.) can be utilized to probe both Raman resonances simultaneously. Under these conditions, in addition to CARS signals from each resonance, a combined DR-CARS signal probing both is also generated. We demonstrate how detecting the difference between the DR-CARS signal and the amplifying signal from an abundant molecule's vibration can be used to enhance the sensitivity for the weaker signal. We further demonstrate that this approach even extends to applications where both signals are generated from different molecules, such that e.g. using the strong Raman signal of a solvent can enhance the weak Raman signal of a dilute solute.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Chemical Engineering(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)