LONDON A spin-out from the University of Southampton is working with two London hospitals to develop an optical fibre-based beam delivery system for minimally invasive surgical applications. The unique optical properties of these fibres enable them to be used where conventional materials do not operate and so can be used as flexible handheld surgical tools for the delivery of mid-infrared laser radiation.
ChG Southampton, which was spun out in 2004 from the University of Southampton's Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC), is collaborating with researchers from the Dental Institute of King’s College London and Guy’s Hospital.
The ORC specializes in dielectric materials in both crystal and glassy forms – the most commonly used materials in photonics. One of the emerging technology platforms is based on Chalcogenide glasses and ChG Southampton was established to exploit the potential of this technology.
One of the more significant properties of this material is its ability to transmit optical radiation in the near-infrared (NIR), a spectral region where current silica technology does not work. This opens up a new transmission window for optical networks to relieve current bandwidth constraints. The NIR spectral region is also rich in biological and chemical emission signatures where the technology can enable new capabilities in industrial and scientific imaging and spectroscopy.
The three collaborating groups are developing a prototype fibre device for endoscopic laser power delivery at 2.9 microns from an Er:YAG laser for the treatment of salivary duct stones. The value of this laser is directly related to its wavelength which matches the fundamental absorption of water.
Every year over 3,000 UK patients are admitted to hospital for the treatment of salivary duct stones and the cost to NHS is estimated at £5million per year. This could be reduced significantly through minimally invasive laser surgery while also providing enhanced health care benefits to the patients. Following the demonstration of their device for maxiofacial surgery, the team at ChG plan to exploit the device in other areas, most notably dermatology, dentistry and ophthalmology.