Advanced air-filled fiber bundle allows making endoscopes smaller

Recently researchers from the USA have created a totally new type of air-filled optical fiber bundle that could highly change medical endoscopes that are used for minimally invasive surgeries or bronchoscopies. Moreover, the advanced fiber bundle creates new wavelengths for endoscopy that will be useful for diagnostics. These infrared wavelengths are able to produce images and this allows new diagnostic procedures that are impossible to make with endoscopes at the present time.

All the endoscopes have bundles of optical fibers for images transmission from inside the body. Thus, light from the one end of the fiber bundle goes through each fiber to the far end, allowing an image to be taken in the form of thousands of spots.The components of optical fibers include an inner core and an outer cladding that has different optical qualities, which catch the light inside and makes it transmitting down the fiber. In contrast to most fiber bundles that use cores and claddings made of two kinds of glass, an array of glass cores surrounded by hollow glass capillaries filled with air are used in the advanced optical bundle.

These new fiber bundles are named air-clad imaging fibers and allow making endoscopes smaller and the resolution of images higher than in all the best commercial fibers. Today high resolution of the images plays a very important role in the medical sphere, especially, where narrow fibers are needed. The air-filled fiber bundles make it possible to pack more fibers into a smaller diameter and obtain clearer pictures. Nevertheless, the use of the air-clad imaging fibers is not limited by medicine; they are quite useful in monitoring the contents of dangerous devices or imaging the inside of oil and mineral drills.

It should be mentioned that a bundle of fibers with a greater amount of cores creates more detailed pictures, but if the size of these cores is too small and they are close to each other, light can be distorted and, consequently, the quality of the picture degrades. The special structure of fiber bundles in the form of a honeycomb solves the problem.

The cooperation of new fibers and wavelengths further into the infrared portion of the spectrum promotes the creation of endoscopes that are able to image fluorescent markers that produce at these wavelengths. Looking forward, this infrared light will show cells that are deeper within tissue than can be seen with visible wavelengths. As a result, the air-filled fiber bundle is an effective way of highlighting disease in the lung. In spite of the fact that the principle, on which the new fibers are based, has been known for a long time, the approaches of their creation have just recently reached the point where the bundles of fiber could be produced.

Optromix is a provider of top quality special fibers and broad spectra optical fiber solutions. The company offers numerous types of FlexiRay® fiber bundles and fiber converters for a broad spectral range from 0.2 to 18 µm. Optromix creates the fiber bundles that are matched customer applications with different fiber types, diameters, and polymer or metal jackets. If you have any questions or would like to buy a fiber bundle, please contact us at info@optromix.com

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