Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2018

Author's School

School of Engineering & Applied Science

Author's Department

Biomedical Engineering

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Photoacoustic (PA) tomography (PAT) provides volumetric images of biological tissue with scalable spatial resolutions and imaging depths, while preserving the same imaging contrast—optical absorption. Taking the advantage of its 100% sensitivity to optical absorption, PAT has been widely applied in structural, functional, and molecular imaging, with both endogenous and exogenous contrasts, at superior depths than pure optical methods. Intuitively, hemoglobin has been the most commonly studied biomolecule in PAT due to its strong absorption in the visible wavelength regime.

One of the main focuses of this dissertation is to investigate an underexplored wavelength regime—ultraviolet (UV), which allows us to image cell nuclei without labels and generate histology-like images naturally from unprocessed biological tissue. These preparation-free and easy-to-interpret characteristics open up new possibilities for PAT to become readily applicable to other important biomedical problems (e.g., surgical margin analysis, Chapter 2) or basic science studies (e.g., whole-organ imaging, Chapter 3). For instance, we developed and optimized a PA microscopy system with UV laser illumination (UV-PAM) to achieve fast, label-free, multilayered, and histology-like imaging of human breast cancer in Chapter 2. These imaging abilities are essential to intraoperative surgical margin analysis, which enables promptly directed re-excision and reduces the number of repeat surgeries.

We have incorporated the Grüneisen relaxation (GR) effect with UV-PAM to improve the performance of our UV-PAM system (e.g., the axial resolution), thus providing more accurate three-dimensional (3D) information (Chapter 4). The nonlinear PA signals caused by the GR effect enable optical sectioning capability, revealing important 3D cell nuclear distributions and internal structures for cancer diagnosis.

In the final focus of this dissertation, we have implemented a low-cost PA computed tomography (PACT) system with a single xenon flash lamp as the illumination source (Chapter 5). Lasers have been commonly used as illumination light sources in PACT. However, lasers are usually expensive and bulky, limiting their applicability in many clinical usages. Therefore, the use of a single xenon flash lamp as an alternative light source was explored. We found that PACT images acquired with flash lamp illumination were comparable to those acquired with laser illumination. This low-cost and portable PACT system opens up new potentials, such as low-cost skin melanoma imaging in undeveloped countries.


English (en)


Lihong V. Wang

Committee Members

Mark A. Anastasio, Deborah V. Novack, Jung-Tsung Shen, Lan Yang,


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