Photoacoustics continues to pop up in all sorts of new and useful research. First studied nearly a century and a half ago by Alexander Graham Bell, the effect, wherein variations in light absorption create sound, is now increasingly used to probe inside biological samples. While Bell initially performed his studies by simply listening very carefully, we are now able to fabricate all sorts of ultrasonic detectors that can “listen” to the absorption of light pulses as they are scanned deep within living tissue. In this work, Allen and colleagues test an exciting new type of ultrasound detector that is sensitive to an extremely large angular range of incoming sound waves. Their wide-angle detector, which is based on a resonant-tipped optical fiber, addresses an important problem in photoacoustic systems: imaging speed. Instead of having to physically scan the sample or ultrasound detector around, which can take a long time, Allen and co-workers can now place their device very close to a sample and record high-quality images across a large 1-square-centimeter field-of-view. Their impressive demonstrations of measuring blood oxygenation saturation across an entire mouse ear point to a very promising future device that Bell would certainly be quite proud of!
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