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Leica TCS SP8 Leica Leica Microsystems

120 nm laterial resolution

by LIGHTNING Image Information Extraction. Maximize the information you extract from your specimen and get in-depth answers to scientific questions with the LIGHTNING detection package for image information extraction.

With LIGHTNING, in one click you

  • reveal the most information from your images and resolve nanoscale structures down to 120 nm
  • obtain real-time results even for ambitious experimental conditions
  • maintain resolution and speed for multi-channel data acquisition

Paramecium. Comparison of results using LIGHTNING Image Information Extraction and confocal imaging. Sample: courtesy of Anne Aubusson-Fleury, CNRS, Gif-sur-Yvette, France

Lifetime imaging in an instant 

SP8 FALCON is the first truly integrated solution for FLIM imaging  and delivers benchmark results at least 10x faster than conventional systems.

Harness the power of fluorescence lifetime to investigate cellular physiology and explore dynamics in living cells.

  • Follow fast molecular interactions via FLIM-FRET (Förster Resonance Energy Transfer)
  • Use biosensors to detect changes in metabolic state and microenvironment
  • Apply lifetime contrast to separate multiple fluorophores
  • Acquire fluorescence lifetime data with minimal training



Histological section from cat eye. Simultaneous spectral (grey) and FLIM (color) confocal imaging reveals contrast by lifetime.

Maximum Dynamic Resolution by Photon Counting

Superior Signal-to-noise Ratio

Photon counting provides a much higher signal-to-noise ratio than traditional intensity averaging. Intensity averaging is the de-facto standard on all commercial confocals using multialkaline or GaAsP PMTs.

The Leica HyD is the only photodetector with a high time resolution that allows resolving single photons even at the high count rates that are typically used for imaging. With the Leica HyD, you get information from your images that is more reliable than with any other detector fully integrated into a confocal microscope.

High Dynamic Range

The Leica HyD covers the full frequency range in one detector from photon counting to imaging. The complete information is contained in one image. This means high flexibility for your confocal experiments and less artifacts from data processing.

Sampling rate in a photon counting system is strongly linked to the signal-to-noise ratio. A conventional photon counting system with low sampling rate, e.g. 15 MHz, can detect only a small number of photons, which is associated with a relatively high noise level. At higher count rates, the signal saturates and is no longer quantitative. However, typical dyes in biological specimens emit at rates between 15 and 40 MHz.

With its fast sampling, the Leica HyD detects higher photon rates with low noise resulting in better images than PMTs or APDs. In photon counting mode, the HyD is linear up to 60 MHz, in standard mode linearity is ensured even up to 300 MHz.

Photon counting allows as much information to be accumulated as needed for statistical analysis.

Super-Resolution Nanoscopy

Resolve Down to 30 Nanometer

The Leica TCS SP8 STED 3X provides resolution at nanoscopic level to resolve details down to 30 nm.. It is fully integrated into the Leica TCS SP8 confocal platform and gives fast, intuitive, and purely optical access to structural details far beyond the diffraction limit – fast enough even for live cell imaging.

Pulsed STED at 775 nm of 45 nm DNA Origamis
- 45 nm peak to peak
- FWHM of single peak sub 30 nm

AOBS – The Most Versatile Beamsplitter

Image spectrally close fluorophores with 30% more efficiency

In confocal microscopy, the excitation light enters the specimen on the same side from which emission is collected. A beam splitter separates excitation and emission light.

The AOBS (Acousto-Optical Beam Splitter) is a completely transparent, active TeO2 crystal, which offers maximum photon efficiency. An acoustic wave coupled into the crystal changes its transmission properties. It switches within microseconds by simply changing the radio frequency of the wave. This makes the AOBS a uniquely flexible, efficient, and fast beam splitter.

The AOBS reflection bands have a steep cut-off and narrow bandwidth allowing the collection of up to 30% more emission light.
The AOBS can accomodate up to eight reflection bands. You can use closely spaced excitation lines for simultaneous imaging of unique dye combinations like GFP and YFP. As a result, dye separation can be easily performed without unmixing and related artifacts.

Top: All wavelengths are fully flexible with the AOBS allowing to use closely spaced excitation lines like GFP and YFP.
Bottom: The steep edges of the AOBS increase transmission efficiency by 30%

Super-Sensitive Detection with Leica HyD

Sensitive live specimens need to be imaged under low light conditions in high gain situations.

The Leica HyD offers you superior signal-to-noise ratio to help render the finest details of any specimen – even tricky ones, such as highly scattering tissue slices.

By reducing dark noise, the Leica HyD automatically improves image contrast, and you immediately obtain publication-ready images.

Read more about hybrid detection technology.

Gapless Photon Efficiency

The filter-free spectral detection system is designed to offer simultaneous detection of seemless tunable emission bands without any gaps.

This patented design using a prism represents the most efficient dispersion concept. In contrast to grating-based designs, there is no photon waste and hence no need for recycling loops.

Adaptive Dynamic Range

Unlike array-based spectral detection designs, the Leica SP detector allows a customized balance between the highest sensitivity and highest dynamic range. Discrete detectors permit individual gain settings for each detector, rather than being forced to use the same gain for all array elements. Each point detector individually adapts to the dynamic range of different dyes without photon waste. This is the basis to separate dyes by linear unmixing without mathematical restoration.

Adaptive dynamic range of the SP detector. The SP detection design using individual point detectors avoids two inherent drawbacks of multianode arrays: Loss of dynamics and spectral gaps.

High Speed for Live Specimens

The tandem scanner unites the FOV scanner with a resonant scanning system based on switchable galvanometric mirrors.

  • 22 mm FOV – the largest of any point scanning system
  • X2Y three mirror scanner for homogenous illumination
  • Unique combination of FOV and 8 kHz or 12 kHz resonant scanning system with switchable galvanometric mirrors
  • Scan at frequencies of up to 12 kHz, resulting in about 40 fps (512 x 512 px) or 428 fps (512 x 16 px)
  • Acquire 4D stacks up to 50% faster than comparable systems by combining them with the SuperZ GalvoFlow
  • No compromise in resolution, sensitivity or contrast, using the high-NA objectives and the sensitive Leica HyD RLDs
1800 Hz Conventional -> 12 khz Resonant -> SuperZ GalvoFlow

Leica HyD

A Viable Solution

Live cells suffer from inherent phototoxic effects as a result of imaging.

The high sensitivity of the Leica HyD directly allows for a reduction of light dosage delivered to the sample. This improves the viability of your specimen.

Even delicate organisms, such as yeast or worms, are accessible to hybrid detection with excellent confocal resolution.

Live yeast cells double-labeled with EGFP at both the nuclear envelope and the telomere.

Spectral Detector

Simultaneous Detection of Gapless Emission Bands

To differentiate between different emissions of a specimen, it is crucial to have a spectral detection system that allows the recording of several channels simultaneously. The spectral detector of every Leica TCS SP8 allows the simultaneous detection of five different channels via a prism-based dispersive element and cascading arrangement of adjustable sliding mirrors.

Graphic: Prism Dispersion and Spectral Detection. Emitted light passes through a prism (1) that breaks the light up into its spectral constituents. A narrow band of wavelengths can be selected by the insertion of a mechanically variable slit (sliding mirrors) (2). The rest of the spectrum is directed by the highly reflective mirrors to the subsequent detectors (3). A cascade of mechanical slits built from highly reflective sliding mirrors permits recording of up to five channels simultaneously without losses.

Graphic Prism Dispersion and Spectral Detection


Freely Tunable Confocal Imaging

The WLL (White Light Laser) used in the TCS SP8 X features a white light source that covers the spectral range from 470 nm to 670 nm.

The AOBS is key to selecting any wavelength from the white spectrum and maximizes the WLL’s advantages. Up to eight lines can be selected from the spectrum. Each line is freely tunable in color and in intensity, which results in 8! = 40320 combinations.

The continuously tunable illumination and beamsplitting is perfectly completed by the continuously tunable detection with the SP detector. It can collect the transmission bands between the excitation lines by the tunable spectral photometer bands – at utmost transmission efficiency and in five true dye emission channels simultaneously, which allows true multicolor applications.

Top: The white light laser allows to detect up to 8 laser lines from the spectrum, all freely tunable in wavelength and intensity.
Bottom: All wavelengths are fully flexible with the AOBS allowing to record closely spaced excitation lines like GFP and YFP simultaneously. This is much faster than sequential recording.
4K Monitor coming with every Leica TCS SP8 plus LAS X 3D Visualization package.

LAS X Software

Options Inside

Our software platform Leica Application Suite X (LAS X) can be personalized to your demands and assists you in planning, executing and analyzing your experiments.

Explore and Analyze

Its workflow-oriented design and intuitive software wizards guide you step by step through image acquisition, processing, and analysis. Tailor LAS X to your needs with additional software packages like 3D Visualization and 3D Analysis, which allow you to understand the topology of your 3D image and quantify various aspects of intracellular structures.

The examination and analysis of your experiments become extremely easy using Leica TCS SP8 and LAS X.

Top: Without CAM. Important events may be missed. Bottom: With CAM. Time resolution is increased temporarily as needed. The process is studied in more detail and with better yield.

Start Thinking Big

Breakthrough discoveries can happen when you are in the right place at the right time. Leica HCS A can speed up the process of discoveries through high content screening and allows you to standardize biological applications for rapid and reproducible results.

Computer Aided Microscopy (CAM) allows the detection of rare events using external image analysis software like ImageJ or Cell Profiler. Data is continuously streamed to an external storage and image analysis takes place in parallel to data acquisition. Leica HCS A can respond to feedback from the analysis software, which simplifies large screening campaigns.

Designed for You With Partners in Science

"I am very fond of the concept of modularity, because you don’t have to buy entirely new equipment every time you need additional capability."
Jose Xavier Neto, Laboratório Nacional de Biociências, Brasil

"It is great if you can buy, with a small budget, a relatively standard microscope setup. And If you need a special technique, you can upgrade it at a relatively low price."
Bram van de Broek, Netherlands Cancer Institute, NKI –AvL Amsterdam

"When you start with a microscope configuration for your application, you don’t know how the research will develop. Especially in imaging facilities, we need to be flexible. And this flexibility is what I really like about the system."
Astrid Schauss, CECAD Imaging Facility, University of Cologne, Germany