Engineers at Stanford have demonstrated a high-resolution endoscope that is as thin as a human hair with a resolution four times better than previous devices of similar design. The so-called micro-endoscope is a significant step forward in high-resolution, minimally invasive bio-imaging with potential applications in research and clinical practice. Micro-endoscopy could enable new methods in diverse fields ranging from study of the brain to early cancer detection.
The new endoscope was developed by a team under the direction of Joseph Kahn, professor of electrical engineering at the Stanford School of Engineering. The results were published recently in the journal Optics Express and showcased in the Optical Society of America's Spotlight on Optics.
Their prototype can resolve objects about 2.5 microns in size, and a resolution of 0.3 microns is easily within reach. A micron is one thousandth of a millimeter. By comparison, today's high-resolution endoscopes can resolve objects only to about 10 microns. The naked eye can see objects down to about 125 microns.
Kahn is best known for his work in fiber-optic communicationsthe ultra-fast data pipes essential to the Internet and large-scale data centers. His work on endoscopy began two years ago when he and a fellow Stanford electrical engineer, Olav Solgaard, were discussing biophotonicsa field of light-based technologies used in studying biological systems.
"Olav wanted to know if it would it be possible to send light through a single, hair-thin fiber, form a bright spot inside the body, and scan it to record images of living tissue," said Kahn.
The opportunity and the challenge, Kahn and Solgaard knew, rested in multimode fibers in which light travels via many different paths, known in optics as modes; hence the name, multimode fiber. Light is very good at conveying complex information through such fiberswhether computer data or
|Contact: Andrew Myers|
Stanford School of Engineering