Engineering 101

Revolutionizing Medical Imaging with Light

Today’s endoscopes are millimeters wide with limited resolution, and they cannot be used to inspect individual cells. Individual optical fibers, however, are 10x narrower—potentially enabling much higher-resolution imaging and the ability to examine the features of individual cells directly inside living tissue.

Physicists, led by Dr David Phillips from the University of Exeter, innovated a new way to control scrambled light by passing it through a single hair-thin strand of optical fiber, for high-resolution imaging deep inside the body at the tip of a needle.

Until now, it was impossible to directly look through optical fibers, as they scramble the light sent through them. Today, by first calibrating an optical fiber to understand how it blurs images, the calibration information can be used as a key to decipher images from the scrambled light.

The measured key is fragile, and easily changes if the fiber bends or twists, rendering deployment of this technology challenging. The Exeter based team developed a method to keep track of how the image unscrambling key changes while the fiber is in use. This provides a way to maintain high resolution imaging even as a single fiber based micro-endoscope flexes.

Memory effect assisted imaging through multimode optical fibers is published in Nature Communications on Friday, June 18th 2021 and Compressively sampling the optical transmission matrix of a multimode fiber was published in Light: Science and Applications, April 21, 2021.

Original Release: Eureka Alert

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