A 32-channel photon counting module with embedded auto/cross-correlators for real-time parallel fluorescence correlation spectroscopy
Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) is a well-established technique to study binding interactions or the diffusion of fluorescently labeled biomolecules in vitro and in vivo. Fast FCS experiments require parallel data acquisition and analysis which can be achieved by exploiting a multi-channel Single Photon Avalanche Diode (SPAD) array and a corresponding multi-input correlator. This paper reports a 32-channel FPGA based correlator able to perform 32 auto/cross-correlations simultaneously over a lag-time ranging from 10 ns up to 150 ms. The correlator is included in a 32 × 1 SPAD array module, providing a compact and flexible instrument for high throughput FCS experiments. However, some inherent features of SPAD arrays, namely afterpulsing and optical crosstalk effects, may introduce distortions in the measurement of auto- and cross-correlation functions. We investigated these limitations to assess their impact on the module and evaluate possible workarounds.