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Project: Optical Phantoms


Phantoms that simulate the optical characteristics of tissues are commonly used to mimic light distributions in living tissue. Tissue phantoms are often designed and utilized for three purposes: to simulate light distributions with a geometry of physical tissue, for the calibration of optical devices, and for recording a reference measurement with an optical measurement device. For all three uses, the absorption and scattering properties of the created tissue phantom is the primary design factor. Optical tissue phantoms are necessary to calibrate steady-state optical measurements on real tissues to establish quantitative information. Optical device calibration requires using several phantoms with the optical properties that span the typical range of the tissue to be simulated. Furthermore, phantoms that are optically stable are also suitable for use as a reference measurement taken in conjunction with measurements on living tissues.

Several types of phantoms to mimic the optics of human tissue have been described in the literature including homogenized milk, non-dairy creamer, wax, and a blood and yeast suspension. Suspensions of oils/fats in an aqueous solution such as Intralipid and a water soluble dye (India ink) appear to be the most commonly used phantom materials. Difficulties arise in creating inhomogeneities using liquid phantoms such as layered structure. A desire for solid phantoms led to the development of suspensions of Intralipid and India ink in agar, agarose and polyacrylamide that could be cut and shaped to provide inhomogeneities in the phantoms. The inclusion of inhomogeneities limited the selection of dyes used to waterproof inks to prevent diffusion of dyes between regions. However, these phantoms mostly suffer from relatively short useable lifetimes which are usually limited to no more than two months.

More robust phantoms made of rubbers or plastics have been described that give long-term optical stability and greater shaping flexibility. Phantoms compositions of silicone, polyester, polyurethane, and epoxy resin have been described. There may be no great advantage of one material over another. For example, silicone more closely matches the mechanical properties of tissue and may be cast into arbitrary shapes, whereas epoxy, polyurethane, and polyesters are easier to machine after casting. Typically, the selection of a material is determined by the choice of absorbers and their stability in that medium.

The choice of scattering agents in solids is usually limited to aluminum oxide, titanium dioxide, and silicon dioxide, polyester, polystyrene, or latex microspheres. Mie theory can be used to predict the scattering properties of microspheres with knowledge of the relative refractive index, size distribution and number density. Unfortunately, microspheres tend to be much more expensive than aluminum oxide or titanium dioxide particles. One primary difference between aluminum oxide and titanium dioxide particles may be the maximum attainable value for g (the cosine for the mean angle of scattering) which describes the scattering anisotropy.

We have fabricated solid optical tissue phantoms that are castable and photostable. These optical phantoms are designed to be suitable reference standards at two distinct wavelengths and whose optical properties have been carefully measured. The final materials are verified by making several optical phantoms with differing quantities of dye and scattering particles. Phantoms made without added scatterers confirm the stability of the dyesbefore and after the curing process and over a duration of one year.

V. T. Keränen, A. L. Dayton, S. A. Prahl, " Polyurethane phantoms with homogeneous and nearly homogeneous optical properties, " SPIE Proceedings on Design and Performance Validation of Phantoms used in Conjunction with Optical Measurement of Tissue , 7567D , 1-4 (2010).

A. L. Dayton, S. A. Prahl, " Turbid-polyurethane phantom for microscopy, " SPIE Proceedings on Design and Performance Validation of Phantoms Used in Conjunction with Optical Measurements of Tissue , 6870 , 687006-1-687006-7 (2008).

T. Moffitt, Y.-C. Chen, S. A. Prahl, " Preparation and characterization of polyurethane optical phantoms, " Journal of Biomedical Optics , 11 , 041103 (2006).

J. A. Viator, S. A. Prahl, " Photoacoustic Imaging of Gelatin Phantoms Using Matched Field Processing, " SPIE Proceedings of Laser-Tissue Interaction X , 3601 , 276-283 (1999).

J. A. Viator, S. L. Jacques, S. Prahl, " Photoacoustic Imaging of Optical Absorbers in Tissue Phantoms Using the Ray Method of Matched Field Processing, " Proceedings of the Oregon Academy of Science , 35 , 61 (1999 abstract only).

J. A. Viator, A. Shearin, S. Prahl, " Ablation Studies of Thrombus Phantoms Using a 100 μs Nd:YAG Laser at 532 nm, " Proceedings of the Oregon Academy of Science , 33 , 51-52 (1997 abstract only).

D. D. Royston, R. S. Poston, S. A. Prahl, " Optical Properties of Scattering and Absorbing Materials Used in the Development of Optical Phantoms at 1064 nm, " J. Biomedical Optics , 1 , 110-116 (1996).

C. J. M. Moes, M. J. C. van Gemert, W. M. Star, J. P. A. Marijnissen, S. A. Prahl, " Measurements and Calculations of the Energy Fluence Rate in a Scattering and Absorbing Phantom at 633 nm, " Appl. Opt. , 28 , 2292-2296 (1989).

© 2018 Scott Prahl


Biomimic TM Optical Phantoms

Designed to reproduce the absorption and scattering of light in biological tissues, optical phantoms are a durable, stable, and cost-effective referencing solution.

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INO Biomimic phantoms


Solid phantoms are fabricated with industrial-grade polymers to which are added specific absorbing and scattering additives. They have optical properties that deliver reproducibility and long-term stability.

Biomimic TM  Optical Phantoms

With the goal of meeting the needs for calibration and tests of biomedical optical instruments, we manufacture our Biomimic TM  solid optical phantoms. They are specifically designed to reproduce the optical properties of living biological tissues. Produced from a matrix of industrial-grade polyurethane, having extremely low intrinsic absorption in the VIS-NIR spectrum, the process incorporates additives to precisely tune the values of absorption and scattering at one reference wavelength the 450-850nm spectral band.  Each manufactured lot is verified with a characterization sample that is prepared and stored in our inventory. This sample is used to characterize optical properties via an extremely high precision, advanced time-resolved transmittance system (Bouchard et al, 2010). Characterization reports with the exact absorption coefficient µa and reduced scattering coefficient µs’ values at the reference wavelength are provided with each phantom delivered. Since we store all characterization samples for future referencing, you can always request measurements of the optical properties of any given batch at other wavelengths in the supported spectral band at any time, even after the phantom has been delivered.

Standard or custom phantoms

INO offers standard off-the-shelf Biomimic TM   phantoms that can be shipped immediately. Available standard phantoms are listed in the   Rectangular Biomimic Phantoms   and   Cylindrical Biomimic Phantoms   charts below.

If you do not find a phantom that meets your needs on any of these lists, we would be happy to manufacture a custom phantom to your specifications.

You have questions about our phantoms?  Take a look at our FAQ  sheet or send us an e-mail .

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An optical phantom with tissue-like properties in the visible for use in PDT and fluorescence spectroscopy


  • 1 Institute of Environmental Engineering, LPAS-EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland.
  • PMID: 9253049
  • DOI: 10.1088/0031-9155/42/7/014

The design and characterization of optical phantoms which have the same absorption and scattering characteristics as biological tissues in a broad spectral window (between 400 and 650 nm) are presented. These low-cost phantoms use agarose dissolved in water as the transparent matrix. The latter is loaded with various amounts of silicon dioxide, Intralipid, ink, blood, azide, penicillin, bovine serum, and fluorochromes. The silicon dioxide and Intralipid particles are responsible for the light scattering whereas the ink and blood are the absorbers. The penicillin and the azide are used to ensure the conservation of such phantoms when stored at 4 degrees C. The serum and fluorochromes, such as Coumarin 30, produce an autofluorescence similar to human tissues. Various fluorochromes or photosensitizers can be added to these phantoms to simulate a cancer photodetection procedure. The absorption and fluorescence spectroscopy of the porphyrin-type fluorescent markers used clinically for such photodetection procedures is similar in these phantoms and in live tissues. The mechanical properties of these gelatinous phantoms are also of interest as they can easily be moulded and reshaped with a conventional cutter, so that complex structures and shapes, with different optical properties, can be designed. The optical properties of these phantoms were determined between 400 and 650 nm by measuring their effective attenuation coefficient (mu eff) and total reflectance (Rd). The microscopic absorption and reduced scattering coefficients (mu a, mu s') were deduced from mu eff and Rd using a Monte Carlo simulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Fat Emulsions, Intravenous
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Penicillins
  • Phantoms, Imaging*
  • Photochemotherapy* / instrumentation
  • Silicon Dioxide
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence* / instrumentation

New Publication in Nature Science Reports on Fenestra HDVC for MicroCT Imaging

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VIS-NIR Biomimetic Optical Phantom

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The VIS-NIR phantom is based on a finely tuned additive manufacturing process of industrial-grade polyurethane materials.  The µs ’and µa of the phantom is 1.0 mm-1 and µa =0,01 mm -1 at 800 nm. A characterization report is provided with every phantom purchased.  

The phantom contains holes at defined depths (see specs sheet) with accessory tubes that can be filled with fluorescent dyes. 

Download certificate of analysis Download reference publication

Other optical properties and dimensions (holes and depths) are available upon request.

The phantom allows users to assess the in vivo capability (concentration sensitivity, depth sensitivity, resolution) of fluorescent dyes with epi-fluorescent or trans-fluorescent imaging systems. 

Each manufactured lot is verified with a characterization sample that is stored in our inventory and can be used to generate characterization report at different wavelengths at the user’s request. transmittance system.

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$ 600.00

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