Benjamin Hall, Asheesh Lanba, and Jonathan Lynch


J. Laser Appl. 31, 022602 (2019)

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Current technology and methods are not feasible for the rapid three-dimensional visualization of complex biological systems. Magnetic resonance imaging and x-ray tomography are slow and costly, with significant tradeoffs between resolution, speed, and volume. Additionally, contrasting agents are required to differentiate features. Here, the authors present a novel 3D imaging and analysis technique, Laser Ablation Tomography (LATscan[TM]). An ultrafast, ultraviolet pulsed laser is utilized to continuously ablate thin surface layers of samples, and these surfaces are simultaneously imaged as the sample is fed into the laser ablation plane. The resulting data are processed using machine learning techniques to identify structural and compositional features at micron resolution. The images are then stacked, further processed, and reconstructed into high-resolution volume renderings that can be analyzed, quantified, segmented, and virtually dissected. The 3D renderings obtained are in full, natural color that results from the interaction of the materials with the ultraviolet laser during ablation. The application of LATscan to both biological and nonbiological samples has shown excellent results in the fields of botany, entomology, life sciences, material science, and pharmacology, among many others. The most successful roll-out of the technology has been in the agrochemical industry, specifically in studies involving high-throughput phenotyping, root-soil, and plant-pest interactions, biomimetics, and pesticide efficacy. The technology has also offered exciting results in the life sciences, and the combination of the visualization with 3D chemical mapping could be a fundamental research and diagnostic tool.