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Scalable time-correlated photon counting system with multiple independent input channels


Wahl, M; Rahn, H J; Röhlicke, T; Kell, G; Nettels, D; Hillger, F; Schuler, B; Erdmann, R (2008). Scalable time-correlated photon counting system with multiple independent input channels. Review of Scientific Instruments, 79:123113.

Abstract

Time-correlated single photon counting continues to gain importance in a wide range of applications. Most prominently, it is used for time-resolved fluorescence measurements with sensitivity down to the single molecule level. While the primary goal of the method used to be the determination of fluorescence lifetimes upon optical excitation by short light pulses, recent modifications and refinements of instrumentation and methodology allow for the recovery of much more information from the detected photons, and enable entirely new applications. This is achieved most successfully by continuously recording individually detected photons with their arrival time and detection channel information (time tagging), thus avoiding premature data reduction and concomitant loss of information. An important property of the instrumentation used is the number of detection channels and the way they interrelate. Here we present a new instrument architecture that allows scalability in terms of the number of input channels while all channels are synchronized to picoseconds of relative timing and yet operate independent of each other. This is achieved by means of a modular design with independent crystal-locked time digitizers and a central processing unit for sorting and processing of the timing data. The modules communicate through high speed serial links supporting the full throughput rate of the time digitizers. Event processing is implemented in programmable logic, permitting classical histogramming, as well as time tagging of individual photons and their temporally ordered streaming to the host computer. Based on the time-ordered event data, any algorithms and methods for the analysis of fluorescence dynamics can be implemented not only in postprocessing but also in real time. Results from recently emerging single molecule applications are presented to demonstrate the capabilities of the instrument.

Abstract

Time-correlated single photon counting continues to gain importance in a wide range of applications. Most prominently, it is used for time-resolved fluorescence measurements with sensitivity down to the single molecule level. While the primary goal of the method used to be the determination of fluorescence lifetimes upon optical excitation by short light pulses, recent modifications and refinements of instrumentation and methodology allow for the recovery of much more information from the detected photons, and enable entirely new applications. This is achieved most successfully by continuously recording individually detected photons with their arrival time and detection channel information (time tagging), thus avoiding premature data reduction and concomitant loss of information. An important property of the instrumentation used is the number of detection channels and the way they interrelate. Here we present a new instrument architecture that allows scalability in terms of the number of input channels while all channels are synchronized to picoseconds of relative timing and yet operate independent of each other. This is achieved by means of a modular design with independent crystal-locked time digitizers and a central processing unit for sorting and processing of the timing data. The modules communicate through high speed serial links supporting the full throughput rate of the time digitizers. Event processing is implemented in programmable logic, permitting classical histogramming, as well as time tagging of individual photons and their temporally ordered streaming to the host computer. Based on the time-ordered event data, any algorithms and methods for the analysis of fluorescence dynamics can be implemented not only in postprocessing but also in real time. Results from recently emerging single molecule applications are presented to demonstrate the capabilities of the instrument.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Biochemistry
07 Faculty of Science > Department of Biochemistry
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
Language:English
Date:December 2008
Deposited On:08 Jan 2009 10:12
Last Modified:06 Dec 2017 16:42
Publisher:American Institute of Physics
ISSN:0034-6748
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1063/1.3055912
PubMed ID:19123551

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