SBIR Phase II: Laser-Based Replacement for FTIR Microscopy
This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project will realize the full potential of a new quantum cascade laser (QCL) infrared microscope for medical diagnostics. Infrared microscopy can be used for tissue identification without staining, potentially allowing quick, in situ diagnostics for diseases such as cancer. Present infrared microscopes based on Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometers and cooled detectors have a high cost and slow image acquisition speed that limits their usefulness in standard medical clinic settings. New QCL technology makes compact, broadly tunable laser light sources a reality for the mid-infrared region (3 to 12 um) where these microscopes operate. The high power of these lasers also makes it possible to use less sensitive (and lower cost) room temperature focal plane arrays for image acquisition. The Phase I research demonstrated that microscopy and imaging are indeed possible with coherent light sources like QCLs. The performance enhancements available with the rapid tuning and high intensity of QCLs will allow cancer screening via infrared tissue analysis at unprecedented speeds. The intellectual merit in the proposal is to create a useful product based on this new technology that can benefit cancer researchers and medical diagnostics. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is that infrared microscopes with increased capabilities and reduced cost can be developed and made available for medical diagnostics at the clinic level. Recent research demonstrates that infrared microscopy offers the resolution and tissue identification capabilities necessary for it to be used in automated algorithms for cancer screening. In spite of this potential usefulness, infrared microscopy has been confined to select labs. This is in part due to existing FTIR technology that does not allow the reduction in size and cost, nor increase in acquisition speed and resolution, necessary to make infrared microscopy a common analytical technique. The QCL microscope to be built in Phase II will revolutionize infrared microscopy instrumentation. Based on demonstrated performance of components in Phase I, it is estimated that the time to screen a tissue array for signs of cancer will be reduced from six days with a FTIR microscope, to just three minutes with a QCL microscope. This kind of performance is a game-changer for infrared microscopy, and will help drive larger adoption of the technique in clinical settings, and in automated systems that aid in rapid screening for disease.
Small Business Information at Submission:
15378 Avenue of Science Suite 200 San Diego, CA 92128-0000
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