Infrared spectroscopy is a powerful tool well-recognized as suitable for use in a variety of applications including cell biology, drug discovery, chemical composition analysis and material analysis. However, IR spectromicroscopy detection is limited by the signal-to-noise ratio achievable in a given IR spectromicroscopy system, while the main noise contribution in Mid-IR spectromicroscopy is thermal radiation background. It would be beneficial to provide new systems, methods, and/or computer program products enabling infrared spectromicroscopy such that, particularly in the mid-IR and far-spectral regions, single-photon sensitive Mid-IR spectromicroscopy techniques can be employed to minimize radiational load on the system and permit mid-IR and far-IR emission study of small and/or delicate samples such as living cells, small biomolecules, etc. Potentially, a single molecular detection can be achieved.


A key element of this invention is the recognition that all life-important chemical interaction is situated in the mid-to-far infrared energy range. LLNL’s Infrared (IR) Photon-Sensitive Spectromicroscopy invention is a system designed to suppress thermal radiation background and to allow IR single photon-sensitive spectromicroscopy of small samples by using absorption, reflection, and emission/luminescence measurements.


It is essential for the use of this invention to have single photon detector operating in Mid-IR, and it is desirable to have it operating in Far-IR spectral region. LLNL’s system permits the study of mid-IR emission of living cells, which characterize ongoing metabolic or other cell biochemical processes. It also makes it possible to use resonant light scattering, photoluminescence, or other single-photon techniques in mid-IR with living cells. Currently, none of these methods of study are available with single photon sensitivity.

Potential Applications

LLNL envisions this invention to have broad range of applications where chemical sensitivity on single molecular level is beneficial, including cell chemical imaging, non-destructive and safe cell analysis, nondestructive embryo evaluation for extra corporal fertilization techniques or cloning, drug development, and cellular level biofeedback for drug evaluation/development or for direct therapeutic applications, cryo-electron microscopy, material science, trace organic impurities detection, express biological sample analysis and security applications.

Development Status

LLNL has filed a patent application covering this invention.

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