Fiber optic IR imaging makes medical diagnostics faster

A group of researchers from Denmark is developing a new fiber optic imaging system that applies frequency conversion to shift an entire mid-infrared process imaging into the near-infrared wavelength range while saving the spatial data information. The fiber IR imaging is considered to find the potential application in searching of the chemical-specific signatures of cancer and other heavy diseases.

The fact is researchers from numerous institutions develop an optical fiber technique to convert information from the mid-infrared (MIR) wavelength range, where chemical signatures are most distinguishable, to the near-infrared (NIR) process imaging, where current camera fiber optic technology is most sensitive.

It should be noted that the new optical fiber system of IR imaging allows capturing MIR spectral images of fast events or processes that operate in a matter of milliseconds. Thus, the fiber optic IR imaging technology can be applied in order to detect the chemical signatures of cancer and other heavy diseases in ways that would enhance precision and speed diagnoses.

The principle of the optical fiber system operation is based on the use of nonlinear frequency conversion, to be precise, it is a process imaging, in which energy is added to a photon to convert its wavelength, to develop a detection fiber optic system that could change the whole MIR image into the NIR region while saving all of its spatial data information.

The fiber optic IR imaging system includes a totally new MIR light source that was installed inside. Herewith, it is possible to tune the single-wavelength light source to a different range of wavelengths. Moreover, in order to produce the MIR light, the researchers apply frequency conversion in the light source that enables to use the pulsed NIR laser system both to create the tunable MIR light and to access the image upconversion.

The fiber optic imaging system has been tested by imaging a gas flow and detecting cancerous and normal samples of esophageal tissue. The fiber optic technology produces high peak-power pulses in perfect synchronism, removing the necessity for sophisticated temporal monitoring of the pulses, resulting in images with a perfect signal-to-noise ratio.

Moreover, the fiber optic system is developed in a way that few post-processing procedures after the images are captured. Finally, the highly fast speed of the MIR spectroscopy technique has been demonstrated by adjusting the illumination laser system to match the peak absorption of gas flow and obtaining a video with 40 images per second. The researchers believe that the fiber optic IR imaging could be united with machine learning, and consequently, making medical diagnostics faster and possibly more objective.

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