BIOPHOTONICS/BIOINSTRUMENTATION: Bio and medicine top two growth areas at Laser World of Photonics 2011

What are the main development trends for diode lasers in medicine? The answer—along with answers to scores of similarly broad and highly specific questions about cutting-edge technologies and applications in life sciences—were available to attendees at the world’s largest photonics industry event, held May 22–26, 2011, in Munich, Germany.

The happy mood at the biennial Laser World of Photonics was boosted further by the announcement that the German government had committed an additional one billion Euros to support photonics—which it considers a key enabling technology. Those interested in biomedical optics were likewise pleased to learn that the event’s two top growth areas were medical and biological applications—a result that was part of overall record-breaking performance, according to event organizers: Attendance was up >8% over the 2009 Laser World of Photonics, with 27,500 visitors and more than 1,100 exhibitors.

During the event’s hour-long CEO roundtable, John Ambroseo of Coherent (Santa Clara, CA) addressed the issue of “megatrends” by pointing to the rapidly developing area of medical diagnostics, which he said is changing because of photonics technology. Ulrich Simon of Carl Zeiss MicroImaging GmbH (Jena, Germany) noted the progress that optics and photonics have brought to the biomedical industry, and the dual goals of early disease diagnosis and reduced expense. “The true breakthrough will really happen,” he said, with the ability to diagnose diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, that “cost us a lot of money globally.” (Find full-length and edited versions of the roundtable at the event website,

At Laser World of Photonics 2011, the world’s largest photonics industry event, medical and biological applications were the top two growth areas.

Standing room-only

Throughout the rest of the conference, there was plenty of evidence of progress along those lines. For instance, Mary-Ann Mycek, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI), delivered a keynote address describing an optical spectroscopy approach to assessing pancreatic tumors in-vivo.1 Mycek said her group was able to differentiate normal and diseased tissue using quantitative photon-tissue interaction models and tissue classification algorithms that they had developed, and that studies in humans are happening now.

Like Mycek’s talk, each of the biomedical optics sessions I joined drew a standing room-only crowd. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the discovery of optical coherence tomography (OCT), CLEO Europe and the European Conference on Biomedical Optics (ECBO) co-sponsored a tutorial presentation by one of OCT’s founders, MIT (Cambridge, MA) professor Jim Fujimoto—who estimates that the market for OCT is >$1 billion per year. In his plenary on OCT, Wolfgang Drexler of the Medical University of Wien (Austria) had to keep a fast pace to cover highlights of the technology’s history, and then forecast a sunny future for both technology and market development.

Exhibition exhilaration

Not all biomedical products on display were confined to the biophotonic and life sciences pavilion—though that was the busiest of the four halls. For instance, in another hall the Fraunhofer Institute demonstrated its miniature microscope designed to effectively detect melanoma in less than a second (see And in the same hall, I found news of lasers co-developed by TomoWave (Houston, TX) and Italian company QuantaSystem to address optoacoustic sensing, microscopy, and biomedical optics.

Similarly, I was rewarded for my trek to the Canada stand, where Quebec Photonic Network president Michel Tetu led me on a visit with numerous companies involved in life science work: In addition to Genia, which showed off its award-winning coherent anti-Stokes Raman (CARS)-based hyperspectral imaging system, there was Doric Lenses, Fotona, INO (a design and development firm for optics and photonics solutions), MPB Communications and QPS Photronics.

JenLab’s multiphoton tomography system produces incredible, cellular-resolution images of the skin. See the demo video at

But the biophotonic and life sciences pavilion was the center of activity for biomedical optics, and that’s where I found Newport Spectra-Physics’ (Irvine, CA) InSight DeepSee, an ultrafast laser that’s interesting for multiphoton imaging because its new (non-Ti:S) technology provides expanded range (with 680–1300 nm tuning) and promises seamless access to long infrared wavelengths (see page 38). Along similar lines, Coherent announced the Chameleon Compact OPO-Vis, which works with the company’s Chameleon Ultra and offers, with help from a second harmonic generation (SHG) accessory, automated frequency doubling of both OPO and laser output—plus mid-IR wavelengths.

Qioptiq (Luxembourg) introduced a new intra-oral camera with liquid lens technology and autofocus, and showed off its OptiGrid structured illumination microscopy (SIM) system, as well as LumaCam, featuring a 1-megapixel CCD sensor that is less than half the cost of its predecessor. Meanwhile, PicoQuant (North American office in Westfield, MA) announced new yellow (picosecond) and green pulsed diode laser heads (the LDH-P-FA-595 and 530L), along with a diode laser for programmable-shape nanosecond pulses (PPL 400).

But my favorite demo at the show was found in the exhibit of the German Biophotonics Research Program. I watched (and you can, too, at as JenLab’s multiphoton tomography system—which incorporates a femtosecond laser—produced incredible, cellular-resolution images of the skin of a volunteer subject.

Find information on other new products announced during the show at

The answer is here

One nice feature of Laser World of Photonics is a series of theme-oriented presentations offered at different locations in the exhibit area. In the Biophotonics and Life Sciences pavilion, the presentations centered on bioinstrumentation, diagnostics and therapy. And this is where the answer to the question about development trends in diode lasers was answered. According to Manuel Bracker of Limo GmbH (Dortmund, Germany), they include:

  • New wavelengths to allow greater absorption in water—at lower powers
  • Ongoing cost reduction
  • Increased portability

Barbara G. Goode

1. R. H. Wilson et al., Biomed. Opt., paper BWB6 (2010).

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