We examine the performance of confocal microscopes designed for probing structures embedded in turbid media. A heuristic scheme is described that combines a numerical Monte Carlo simulation of photon transport in a turbid medium with a geometrical ray trace through the confocal optics. To show the effects of multiple scattering on depth discrimination, we compare results from the Monte Carlo simulations and scalar diffraction theory. Experimental results showing the effects of the pinhole diameter and other variables on imaging performance at various optical depths in suspensions of polystyrene microspheres were found to correspond well with the Monte Carlo simulations. The major conclusion of the paper is that the trade-off between signal level and background scattered-light rejection places a fundamental limit on the sectioning capability of the microscope.
© 1994 Optical Society of AmericaPDF Article