The use of variable-focal-length (VFL) microlenses can provide a way to axially scan the foci across a sample by electronic control. We demonstrate an approach to coupling VFL microlenses individually to a fiber bundle as a way to create a high-throughput aperture array with a controllable aperture pattern. It would potentially be applied in real-time confocal imaging in vivo for biological specimens. The VFL microlenses that we used consist of a liquid-crystal film sandwiched between a pair of conductive substrates for which one has a hole-patterned electrode. One obtains the variation of the focal length by changing the applied voltage. The fiber bundle has been characterized by coupling with both coherent and incoherent light sources. We further demonstrate the use of a VFL microlens array in combination with the fiber bundle to build up a confocal system. The axial response of the confocal system has been measured without mechanical movement of the sample or the objective, and the FWHM is estimated to be approximately 16 μm, with asymmetric sidelobes.
© 2005 Optical Society of America
Original Manuscript: November 18, 2004
Revised Manuscript: April 12, 2005
Manuscript Accepted: April 13, 2005
Published: October 1, 2005
Lisong Yang, Aaron Mac Raighne, Eithne M. McCabe, L. Andrea Dunbar, and Toralf Scharf, "Confocal microscopy using variable-focal-length microlenses and an optical fiber bundle," Appl. Opt. 44, 5928-5936 (2005)