GRADIENT FIELD MICROSCOPY OF UNSTAINED SPECIMENS, OPT. EXP., 20 (6), 2012
We present a phase derivative microscopy technique referred to as gradient field microscopy (GFM), which provides the first-order derivatives of the phase associated with an optical field passing through a transparent specimen. GFM utilizes spatial light modulation at the Fourier plane of a bright field microscope to optically obtain the derivatives of the phase and increase the contrast of the final image. The controllable spatial modulation pattern allows us to obtain both one component of the field gradient (derivative along one direction) and the gradient intensity, which offers some advantages over the regular differential interference contrast (DIC) microscopy. Most importantly, unlike DIC, GFM does not use polarizing optics and, thus, it is applicable to birefringent samples. We demonstrate these features of GFM with studies of static and dynamic biological cells (HeLa cells and red blood cells). We show that GFM is capable of qualitatively providing information about cell membrane fluctuations. Specifically, we captured the disappearance of the bending mode of fluctuations in osmotically swollen red blood cells.