32-channel time-correlated-single-photon-counting system for high-throughput lifetime imaging
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Time-Correlated Single Photon Counting (TCSPC) is a very efficient technique for measuring weak and fast optical signals, but it is mainly limited by the relatively "long" measurement time. Multichannel systems have been developed in recent years aiming to overcome this limitation by managing several detectors or TCSPC devices in parallel. Nevertheless, if we look at state-of-the-art systems, there is still a strong trade-off between the parallelism level and performance: the higher the number of channels, the poorer the performance. In 2013, we presented a complete and compact 32 × 1 TCSPC system, composed of an array of 32 single-photon avalanche diodes connected to 32 time-to-amplitude converters, which showed that it was possible to overcome the existing trade-off. In this paper, we present an evolution of the previous work that is conceived for high-throughput fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy. This application can be addressed by the new system thanks to a centralized logic, fast data management and an interface to a microscope. The new conceived hardware structure is presented, as well as the firmware developed to manage the operation of the module. Finally, preliminary results, obtained from the practical application of the technology, are shown to validate the developed system.