High-resolution impedance mapping using electrically activated quantitative phase imaging

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Retrieving electrical impedance maps at the nanoscale rapidly via nondestructive inspection with a high signal-to-noise ratio is an unmet need, likely to impact various applications from biomedicine to energy conversion. In this study, we develop a multimodal functional imaging instrument that is characterized by the dual capability of impedance mapping and phase quantitation, high spatial resolution, and low temporal noise. To achieve this, we advance a quantitative phase imaging system, referred to as epi-magnified image spatial spectrum microscopy combined with electrical actuation, to provide complementary maps of the optical path and electrical impedance. We demonstrate our system with high-resolution maps of optical path differences and electrical impedance variations that can distinguish nanosized, semi-transparent, structured coatings involving two materials with relatively similar electrical properties. We map heterogeneous interfaces corresponding to an indium tin oxide layer exposed by holes with diameters as small as ~550 nm in a titanium (dioxide) over-layer deposited on a glass support. We show that electrical modulation during the phase imaging of a macro-electrode is decisive for retrieving electrical impedance distributions with submicron spatial resolution and beyond the limitations of electrode-based technologies (surface or scanning technologies). The findings, which are substantiated by a theoretical model that fits the experimental data very well enable achieving electro-optical maps with high spatial and temporal resolutions. The virtues and limitations of the novel optoelectrochemical method that provides grounds for a wider range of electrically modulated optical methods for measuring the electric field locally are critically discussed.

Chenfei Hu