Fibre optic breakthrough could help doctors see inside hardest to reach parts of human body
Scientists have found a way of sending accurate images along a single strand of fibre optic cable
Daily Mail Reporter
10:11 GMT, 30 August 2012
10:11 GMT, 30 August 2012
Scientists at the University of St Andrews have made a breakthrough which could allow doctors to see inside some of the hardest to reach parts of the human body with imaging devices no thicker than a human hair.
Dr Tomas Cizmar and Professor Kishan Dholakia have developed a technique which for the first time has allowed the transmission of accurate images along a single strand of fibre optic cable.
Until now, attempts to use such narrow fibres to transmit images had always resulted in scrambled signals. Dr Cizmar and Prof Dholakia however have found a way to decode the scrambled light to construct a clear and true picture
Creating minute medical devices was once the realm of science fiction such as in the 1987 film 'Innerspace'
Their breakthrough holds out the hope of the development of new, inexpensive and minimally invasive imaging devices and scopes which can 'see' in hard to reach places. It could be of particular benefit in neuroscience and other branches of medicine and science where the area under study is either delicate or very difficult to reach.
Fibres that can support multiple modes of light normally scatter light and produce random, unpredictable patterns at their output. Ordinarily this is a problem for imaging, as the image is distorted as it travels, and is lost on transmission.
However, the St Andrews scientists
discovered that if the randomisation of light within the fibre can be
characterised, the way the images are scrambled can be predicted. In
turn, the output light can be modulated to reverse the randomisation and
reveal the original image.
Fibre optic strands are similar in width to a human hair
By careful modulation of the input imaging light field, they were also able to select the depth of focus of the system, circumventing the need for focussing optics and allowing for a dynamic, real-time adjustment of the imaging system.
Dr Cizmar said: 'Holographic control of randomized light signals is a young but very progressive discipline. It is only a few years since the first experiments but we have already witnessed a number of immensely promising achievements some of them originating in St Andrews.
'Our new contribution represents a further extension of this branch to the Bio-medical community and we are looking forward to see what a further advancement of these techniques may bring in the future. It is a very exciting time.'
The University of St Andrews hopes to build on this research and is currently fundraising to support Biomedical Research in Analytical Imaging and Neurophotonic Science (BRAINS) as part of its 600th Anniversary Campaign.
This new collaborative venture will allow this research to be taken to the next level – that of real life applications – opening the door to improved diagnosis and understanding of a wide range of diseases.