Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Electrical, Computer & Energy Engineering

First Advisor

Rafael Piestun

Second Advisor

Carol Cogswell

Third Advisor

Jennifer DeLuca

Fourth Advisor

Kelvin Wagner

Fifth Advisor

Robert McLeod


In recent years, super-resolution imaging has become an important fluorescent microscopy tool. It has enabled imaging of structures smaller than the optical diffraction limit with resolution less than 50 nm. Extension to high-resolution volume imaging has been achieved by integration with various optical techniques. In this thesis, development of a fluorescent microscope to enable high resolution, extended depth, three dimensional (3D) imaging is discussed; which is achieved by integration of computational methods with optical systems.

In the first part of the thesis, point spread function (PSF) engineering for volume imaging is discussed. A class of PSFs, referred to as double-helix (DH) PSFs, is generated. The PSFs exhibit two focused spots in the image plane which rotate about the optical axis, encoding depth in rotation of the image. These PSFs extend the depth-of-field up to a factor of ~5. Precision performance of the DH-PSFs, based on an information theoretical analysis, is compared with other 3D methods with conclusion that the DH-PSFs provide the best precision and the longest depth-of-field. Out of various possible DH-PSFs, a suitable PSF is obtained for super-resolution microscopy.

The DH-PSFs are implemented in imaging systems, such as a microscope, with a special phase modulation at the pupil plane. Surface-relief elements which are polarization-insensitive and ~90% light efficient are developed for phase modulation. The photon-efficient DH-PSF microscopes thus developed are used, along with optimal position estimation algorithms, for tracking and super-resolution imaging in 3D. Imaging at depths-of-field of up to 2.5 μm is achieved without focus scanning. Microtubules were imaged with 3D resolution of (6, 9, 39) nm, which is in close agreement with the theoretical limit. A quantitative study of co-localization of two proteins in volume was conducted in live bacteria.

In the last part of the thesis practical aspects of the DH-PSF microscope are discussed. A method to stabilize it, for extended periods of time, with 3-4 nm precision in 3D is developed. 3D Super-resolution is demonstrated without drift. A PSF correction algorithm is demonstrated to improve characteristics of the DH-PSF in an experiment, where it is implemented with a polarization-insensitive liquid crystal spatial light modulator.