We present an imaging method that uses the random optical speckle patterns that naturally emerge as light propagates through strongly scattering media as a structured illumination source for photoacoustic imaging. Our approach, termed blind structured illumination photoacoustic microscopy (BSIPAM), was inspired by recent work in fluorescence microscopy where super-resolution imaging was demonstrated using multiple unknown speckle illumination patterns. We extend this concept to the multiple scattering domain using photoacoustics (PA), with the speckle pattern serving to generate ultrasound. The optical speckle pattern that emerges as light propagates through diffuse media provides structured illumination to an object placed behind a scattering wall. The photoacoustic signal produced by such illumination is detected using a focused ultrasound transducer. We demonstrate through both simulation and experiment, that by acquiring multiple photoacoustic images, each produced by a different random and unknown speckle pattern, an image of an absorbing object can be reconstructed with a spatial resolution far exceeding that of the ultrasound transducer. We experimentally and numerically demonstrate a gain in resolution of more than a factor of two by using multiple speckle illuminations. The variations in the photoacoustic signals generated with random speckle patterns are utilized in BSIPAM using a novel reconstruction algorithm. Exploiting joint sparsity, this algorithm is capable of reconstructing the absorbing structure from measured PA signals with a resolution close to the speckle size. Another way to excite random excitation for photoacoustic imaging are small absorbing particles, including contrast agents, which flow through small vessels. For such a set-up, the joint-sparsity is generated by the fact that all the particles move in the same vessels. Structured illumination in that case is not necessary.

© 2017 SPIE

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