Confocal microscopy is a technique for high-resolution three-dimensional imaging which uses a pinhole to increase resolution in the image plane and eliminate out-of-focus light in thick specimens. The thickness of the focal plane is generally defined mostly by the objective lens and also by the optical properties of the specimen and the ambient conditions. With an imaging confocal only the light within the focal plane is detected, so that the resulting confocal images appear crisper than widefield images [read more at the cell biology wiki]. Typical applications occur within the life sciences, e.g. in cell biology. In essence there are two classes of confocal systems: single beam and multi-beam.
Confocal Scanning with CSU Spinning Disk
A Nipkow spinning disk is a multi-beam confocal scanner. The main advantage of this type of confocal imaging is the relatively fast imaging acquisition making it useful for live cell imaging applications.
The operating principle of the Yokogawa CSU spinning disk is explained here. Briefly, the disk has a spiral pattern of pinholes that is illuminated by an expanded laser beam. This generates a multi-beam illumination pattern which which the sample is illuminated. By rapidly rotating the disk this multi-beam visits all positions in the sample plane near simultaneously. The part of the fluorescence that travels back through the pinholes generates a full field confocal image at the camera detector.
Being a camera-based system, the Lambert Instruments LIFA system for frequency domain FLIM is compatible with multi-beam confocal microscopy techniques, most notably the Yokogawa CSU spinning disk series (based on the Nipkow disk scanner), and the VTInfinity series by Visitech International Ltd.