CUSBO (Milan, Italy)

CUSBO covers a broad range of activities of interdisciplinary nature. Several unique state of the art sources provide few-cycle light pulses, either widely-tunable or of high peak power seeding attosecond beamlines, for pump-probe experiments. Advanced laser workstations mostly based on time-resolved measurements are also applied to non-invasive clinical diagnostics, biological imaging, and non-destructive analysis of food and cultural heritage.
Research highlights

Centre for Ultrafast Science and Biomedical Optics,
Politecnico di Milano (POLIMI),
Dipartimento di Fisica, Milano, Italia


Antonio Pifferi
Sandro De Silvestri

Projects performed by external users are of a highly interdisciplinary nature. Here are a few examples covering topics from


"Ultrafast carrier thermalization in lead iodide perovskite probed with two-dimensional electronic spectroscopy" [Nature Commun. 8, 376 (2017)]

"Tracking the coherent generation of polaron pairs in conjugated polymers" [Nature Commun. 7, 13742 (2016)]

“Attosecond Chronoscopy of Electron Scattering in Dielectric Nanoparticles” [Nature Phys. 13, 766 (2017)]

Materials Science

“Visualizing Ultrafast Electron Transfer Processes in Semiconductor–Metal Hybrid Nanoparticles: Toward Excitonic–Plasmonic Light Harvesting” [Nano Lett. 2021, 21,1461–1468].

“Modulating Singlet Fission by Scanning through Vibronic Resonances in Pentacene-Based Blends” [J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2022, 144, 20610–20619].

“Permanent Dipole Moments Enhance Electronic Coupling and Singlet Fission in Pentacene” [J. Phys. Chem. Lett. 2021, 12, 7453–7458].

Diffuse optical tomography

“Chromophore decomposition in multispectral time-resolved diffuse optical tomography” [Biomed. Opt. Express 8, 4772 (2017)]

“Multiple-view diffuse optical tomography system based on time-domain compressive measurements” [Opt. Lett. 42, 2822 (2017)]

“Coherent fluctuations in time-domain diffuse optics” [APL Photonics 5, 071301 (2020)]

Cultural Heritage

“New insights into the complex photoluminescence behaviour of titanium white pigments" [Dyes and Pigments 155, 14 (2018)]

Projects performed by external users >>

Further application highlights

Lasers and Cancer Lasers for Clean Energy Lasers for Cultural Heritage



Propagation of few cycle optical pulses after hollow fiber compression

CUSBO has a long standing tradition in the field of laser sources and time-resolved measurements. The main domains of research concern:

  • Ultrashort light pulse generation and application to the study of ultrafast phenomena in the matter
  • Photonics for health, food and cultural heritage, focused on the applications of innovative photonic systems.

The most recent research topics refers to coherent XUV radiation by high order harmonic generation, attosecond science, broad-band optical parametric amplifiers, ultrafast spectroscopy, femtosecond nano-optics. Then, innovative photonic systems have been applied to interdisciplinary fields on the basis of the diagnostic potentialities offered by fluorescence lifetime spectroscopy and by time domain diffuse optical imaging. These methodologies have been utilized in clinical applications such as optical mammography, brain functional imaging and in cultural heritage monitoring and analysis.

As major excellence expertise, CUSBO provides: Section of a chemically cleared mouse brain, imaged with a light sheet microscope based on compressed sensing.

  • Tunable femtosecond XUV (14-50 eV) pulses from a time-delay compensated monochromator (<10 fs) with pump-probe set-up
  • Set-up for attosecond transient absorption and reflection spectroscopy
  • High time-resolution (<15fs) transient absorption and 2-D electronic spectroscopy in UV
  • Coherent Raman scattering microscope for cell and tissue imaging
  • Diffuse Raman spectroscopy
  • Non-invasive imaging and spectroscopy in vivo on biological tissues
  • Multicolor light sheet fluorescence microscopy;
  • Structured light imaging system
  • Wide-field time-gated hyperspectral photoluminescence imaging and microscopy.


Expertise in recyclable materials

remade-logo.pngCUSBO hosts many laboratories harnessing light for spectroscopy and imaging in a spectral range from UV to THz and temporal range from attosecond to CW. Among the proprietary methods and tools that have been developed over the years, some of them can be devoted to research for the circular economy. In particular, CUSBO provides its expertise in two main research fields:

A. Classification and identification of material for reuse and recycle.

In this field we can produce images based on diffuse reflectance, fluorescence and Raman of the same field of view. In fact, a number of hyperspectral imaging workstations using a patented interferometer (TWINS) that provides exceptional stability and high throughput have recently been developed at CUSBO. The workstations work with a multiscale approach from micro to macro and in a wide range of wavelengths. They are routinely used for the identification of pigments in heritage science and can be turned to the classification of waste materials with straightforward modifications.

Preliminary trials based on diffuse reflectance in the VIS-NIR-SWIR spectral range have been successfully carried out to identify tissues for reuse/recycling.

Coherent Raman Scattering (CRS) microscopy is a powerful technique for high-speed label-free characterization of the chemical composition of materials. It has been used for example to identify the presence and the type of microplastics on filters and within tissues and cells of marine organisms. CUSBO develops state of the art broadband Coherent Anti-Stokes Raman Scattering (CARS) and Stimulated Raman Scattering (SRS) microscopy setups which can be used for this purpose.

B. Advanced spectroscopy methods for studying molecular dynamics.

For the study of materials at molecular level we can provides an experimental setup for Transient absorption spectroscopy (TAS) in fs, ps and ns timescales, applied to a variety of molecular and solid-state materials. Organic Photovoltaics (OPV) devices based on conjugated polymers are attractive, with respect to the well-established silicon counterparts, because of their easy fabrication, light weight and recyclability. Especially the new generation of OPV based on non-fullerene acceptors (NFAs) shows very promising efficiencies approaching those of the inorganic devices. CUSBO uses ultrafast TAS to follow all the steps (electron/hole transfer, charge separation…) leading to energy conversion in OPV devices.

>> Watch the Laserlab-Europe Talk 'Multimodal and Multiscalar Hyperspectral Imaging'


Equipment offered to external users

Major equipment available to users with some key and unique features:

Non-invasive optical characterisazion of biological tissues in vivo using broadband time-domain diffuse optical spectroscopy

  • Attosecond beamline for gas phase experiments: isolated attosecond pulses (<250 as), rap. rate 1 kHz for two-color (IR/XUV) pump-probe
  • Attosecond beamline for experiments in solids: isolated attosecond pulses (<250 as), rap. rate 10 kHz for two-color (IR/XUV) pump-probe
  • Femtosecond XUV beamline: time-delay compensated monochromator, pulse duration 5-15fs tunable 14-55 eV
  • Pump-probe set-ups based on tunable OPA (from near-IR to UV) <10 fs time-resolution
  • Femtosecond 2D electronic spectroscopy set-ups in near-IR and visible
  • Time and angle resolved photoelectron spectroscopy set-up <60 fs time-resolution
  • High energy OPA system for HHG in soft-X (>200 eV), photoelectron spectroscopy and transient absorption/reflectivity
  • Fs Optical-Pump (400-800 nm) and THz-probe (0.1-10 THz) setup operating in transmission and reflection mode
  • Broadband time-domain diffuse optical spectrometer in the 600-1300 nm range
  • Time-resolved diffuse Raman spectrometer for non-invasive analysis of turbid media in depth
  • Multiple time-domain systems for in-vivo imaging of brain and muscle oxygenation with multi-channel capability and acquisition rate up to 10 Hz.
  • Hybrid system time-domain near infrared spectroscopy and diffuse correlation spectroscopy for in-vivo tissue blood perfusion and oxygenation monitoring.
  • High-throughput (up to 180 Mcounts/s), 7-wavelength (635-1060 nm) time domain scanning diffuse optical imager (for e.g. optical mammography) to quantify total blood content, blood oxygenation, water, lipids, and collagen.
  • Light sheet and optical projection tomography microscopes for imaging mm-sized chemically cleared samples, small organisms, and single cells
  • Time-resolved and spectrally-resolved photoluminescence devices for the remote imaging of artwork surfaces and the micro-imaging study of artwork micro-samples and artist materials.