The photochromic property of bacteriorhodopsin films is exploited in the application of a focusing schlieren optical system for the visualization of optical phase information. By encoding an image on the film with light of one wavelength and reading out with a different wavelength, the readout beam can effectively see the photographic negative of the original image. The potential advantage of this system over previous focusing schlieren systems is that the updatable nature of the bacteriorhodopsin film allows system adaptation. I discuss two image encoding and readout techniques for the bacteriorhodopsin and use film transmission characteristics to choose the more appropriate method. I demonstrate the system principle with experimental results using argon-ion and He–Cd lasers as the two light sources of different wavelengths, and I discuss current limitations to implementation with a white-light source.
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