Optics Industry Report

June 1, 2003
Optics startup wins business prize from Purdue; 'Nanoprobe' will incorporate OCT to detect and treat tumors; Adaptive optics enhance ground-based telescopes; MORE...

Optics startup wins business prize from Purdue

Iris AO (Berkeley, CA), a startup formed by principals from the University of Rochester (New York) and the University of California at Berkeley, won the $50,000 first prize in the inaugural Purdue University Life Sciences Business Plan Competition. Iris AO, using the same optical technology as the Hubble telescope, has developed an application called SmartMirror that allows early detection of eye diseases and has the potential to correct vision to 20/10. In addition to the first prize, Iris AO won $10,000 in legal and business services.

The SmartMirrors are about 3 in. in diameter and cost $125,000. The goal of Iris AO is to make mirrors that are less than a half-inch in diameter and cost about $1000 but have better performance. The system uses the measured deviations to change the shape of special mirrors that correct for the aberrations and produce clear images of the inside of the eye.

'Nanoprobe' will incorporate OCT to detect and treat tumors

A University of California-Irvine (Irvine, CA) research team has received a five-year, $2.9 million National Institutes of Health grant to develop a microscopic probe for detecting and treating precancerous and malignant tumors in humans. Similar to the miniaturized vessel that explores a human body in the science fiction movie "Fantastic Voyage," this nano-sized probe would be inserted into a patient and then guided through the esophagus, stomach and colon to determine if tumors are growing on the wall of the intestine. The probe would be remotely controlled by a surgeon operating an endoscope.

"We have developed optical coherence tomography techniques that can show, in detail, blood flow through tiny vessels as well as microscopic changes in tissue "By coupling this imaging technology with a scanning microdevice that we can control with an endoscope, we may have arrived at an effective alternative to biopsy and visual screening for cancer," said Zhongping Chen, associate professor of biomedical engineering at UCI's Beckman Laser Institute.

Adaptive optics enhance ground-based telescopes

Astronomers from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) have successfully tested a device that corrects for the distortions introduced into an astronomical image by the turbulence of Earth's atmosphere. Although not the first device of its type, experts say that the MACAO-VLTI (Multi Application Curvature Adaptive Optics-Very Large Telescope Interferometer) instrument is a frontrunner in making ground-based telescopes as good as those in space. The first observations, made on April 18, show how the device can compensate for the blurring atmosphere, producing sharp images of nearby double stars as well as the center of the galaxy. The next step is to make more of them and place them on a series of telescopes so that signals from them all can be combined, synthesizing the view that would be obtained from an unbuildable super telescope.

Optical tweezers may help the hard of hearing

Corné Kros, a University of Sussex (England) neuroscientist, has been awarded a $1.3 million grant by the Medical Research Council to use laser tweezers to search for the cause of deafness by looking at hair cells in the ear. A new $196,000 microscope will be used to manipulate the hair bundles on the hair cells using laser tweezers. This is currently done using a jet of fluid instead of a laser, but this works only up to a frequency of 1 kHz, whereas the human ear can hear up to a frequency of 20 kHz. Initially Kros is interested in finding out the essential differences between high- and low-frequency hair cells.

In the future, his work may make possible treatments for deafness in humans that is due to a loss of function in these hair cells.

For more business news, subscribe to Optoelectronics Report. Contact Jayne Sears-Renfer at [email protected].

Also in the news . . .

II-VI (Saxonburg, PA) has appointed Robert Ireland as vice president of sales and marketing for its infrared optics business. Ireland has more than 14 years' experience in the optics and photonics industry, most recently with Corning. . . . SphereOptics-Hoffman (Contoocook, NH) has named Joseph Jablonski vice president of engineering, where he will be responsible for new product development and applications technical support for SphereOptics' light-measurement products. . . . Applied MEMS (Stafford, TX) has been selected to vacuum-package Ion Optics' (Waltham, MA) MEMS optical gas sensors.

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