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Real-time 3D imaging is a major challenge for biological systems due to their dynamic nature and size.  Current solutions typically use 2D detectors; samples of interest are scanned and the subsequent 2D images then undergo deconvolution processing to enable 3D imaging.  This approach inherently has trade-offs including limitations to time resolution, imaging volume, and signal level.  To overcome these challenges, LLNL researchers have developed a novel 3D microscope that uses quantum-entangled light to provide volumetric imaging in a single exposure without scanning.


LLNL’s approach to the development of a wide-field, three-dimensional quantum (3DQ) microscope is to harness quantum entangled photons to form simultaneous 3D optical images, which could be a new paradigm for 3D volumetric imaging of biological specimens.  The 3DQ microscope is comprised of a novel optical system with highly sensitive detectors and an on-demand light source of entangled photons that will provide the necessary flux to enable live, scan-less 3D imaging.  By simultaneously measuring multiple dimensions of information from both partners of entangled photons pairs, LLNL’s 3DQ microscope would be able to collect fluorescence, fluorescence lifetime dark-field style (scattered photons) volumetric images at high frame rates.

Furthermore, advancements in nanotechnology, photonic integrated circuits, and quantum photonics could make it possible for this technology to scale up to a CMOS-compatible platform for quantum-enabled on-chip contact fluorescence as well as lens-free tomography to enable portable, field-deployable and cost-effective solutions for biomedical research.


Laurence et al. The 3DQ Microscope: A Novel System Using Entangled Photons to Generate Volumetric Fluorescence and Scattering Images for Bioenergy Applications.  Bioimaging Science Program 2022 Principal Investigator Meeting Proceedings, p25: May 2022 (

  • Capable of high resolution, widefield spectral fluorescence imaging in 3D
  • High frame rates allow real-time 3D imaging of dynamic biological systems
  • Volumetric imaging without the need for scanning the sample (3D information can be collected in a single exposure)
Potential Applications

Three-dimensional imaging of biological specimens at high frame rate with functionalities of fluorescence, fluorescence lifetime, or dark-field style (scattered light) imaging

Development Status

Current stage of technology development:  TRL 2

U.S. Patent No. 11,598,946 Widefield Three-Dimensional Microscopy with a Quantum Entanglement Light Source issued 3/7/2023 (

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