Spectroscopy expert to share Minerva wisdom

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Gooch & Housego’s Gary Stevens will give an update on research into using ZBLAN and chalcogenide fibres for mid-IR fused devices as part of the Minerva Project at the US-UK Workshop in mid-IR to terahertz technology and applications on 18 and 19 February in Edinburgh.

Stevens will also speak about recent developments in chalcogenide fibres and the challenges this creates in building fused components in the mid-IR range. The Minerva (mid- to near-infrared spectroscopy for improved medical diagnostics) project is funded with €7.3 million under the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7-ICT) and runs until October 2016.

In recent years it has become clear that mid-IR imaging spectroscopy has the potential to open a new chapter in biomedical imaging and offers a tool for early cancer diagnosis and improved survival rates.

Rather than a search for 'cancer marker' absorption peaks, great progress has been made by analysing the entire bio-molecular mid-IR spectral signature using automated algorithms. However, the lack of suitable sources, detectors and components has restricted the technology to one of academic interest, based on weak thermal sources, low power lasers or synchrotron research tools.

For the first time the photonic technology is in place to develop a new mid-IR technology platform on which entirely novel supercontinuum sources (about 1,000 times brighter than thermal sources) cover the whole range from 1.5 to 12μm.

According to Nicholas Stone, professor of biomedical imaging and biosensing at the University of Exeter’s School of Physics: 'The field of vibrational spectroscopy applied to medicine is rapidly advancing and many groups have now demonstrated the capability of mid-infrared imaging to identify subtle disease specific changes in the molecular composition of tissues and cells.

'The Minerva project will take this technique to the next level. The potential for revolutionising the current methods of clinical diagnosis are huge.'