Optical imaging with spectroscopic vibrational contrast is a label-free solution for visualizing, identifying, and quantifying a wide range of biomolecular compounds in biological materials. Both linear and nonlinear vibrational microscopy techniques derive their imaging contrast from infrared active or Raman allowed molecular transitions, which provide a rich palette for interrogating chemical and structural details of the sample. Yet nonlinear optical methods, which include both second-order sum-frequency generation (SFG) and third-order coherent Raman scattering (CRS) techniques, offer several improved imaging capabilities over their linear precursors. Nonlinear vibrational microscopy features unprecedented vibrational imaging speeds, provides strategies for higher spatial resolution, and gives access to additional molecular parameters. These advances have turned vibrational microscopy into a premier tool for chemically dissecting live cells and tissues. This review discusses the molecular contrast of SFG and CRS microscopy and highlights several of the advanced imaging capabilities that have impacted biological and biomedical research.
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