Recent biophotonic advances to highlight Frontiers in Optics 2011

This year's Frontiers in Optics (FiO) 2011, currently being held in San Jose, CA, from October 16–20, is highlighting recent advances in the biophotonics arena. Such advances include:

iPhone that performs microscopy and spectroscopy: Researchers from the University of California, Davis (UC Davis; Davis, CA) have transformed an iPhone into a device able to perform detailed microscopy and spectroscopy using materials that cost as much as a typical smartphone app. These iPhones could help doctors and nurses diagnose blood diseases in remote areas of the world where many hospitals and rural clinics have limited or no access to laboratory equipment, enabling them to transmit real-time data to colleagues around the globe for further analysis and diagnosis. For greater detail on this breakthrough research, attend the presentation, "Microscopy and Spectroscopy on a Cell Phone," on Wednesday, Oct. 19, at 12 p.m.

Gold nanorods to distinguish brain tumors: Duke University (Durham, NC) researchers used gold nanoparticles to clearly distinguish a brain tumor from the healthy tissue that surrounds it without collatoral damage. Since 500 of them end-to-end could fit across a human hair, gold nanoparticles might provide a better way to find tumorous tissue because they are non-toxic and relatively cheap to manufacture. The researchers synthesized gold, rod-shaped nanoparticles with varying length-to-width ratios—each of which displayed different optical properties. By controlling the nanorods’ growth, the team could “tune” the particles to scatter a specific frequency of light. They then joined the tuned particles to antibodies that bind to growth factor receptor proteins found in unusually high concentrations on the outside of cancer cells. When the antibodies latched on to cancer cells, the gold nanoparticles marked their presence. The researchers will present their full findings at 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 19.

Nature-inspired lasers: Researchers at Yale University (New Haven, CT) are studying how two types of nanoscale structures on the feathers of birds produce brilliant and distinctive colors, with the goal of producing lasers that can assemble themselves by natural processes. Inspired by feathers, the physicists created two lasers that use this short-range order to control light. One model is based on feathers with tiny spherical air cavities packed in a protein called beta-keratin. The laser based on this model consists of a semiconductor membrane full of tiny air holes that trap light at certain frequencies. Quantum dots embedded between the holes then amplify the light and produce the coherent beam. The presentation, titled “Bio-inspired photonic nanostructures and lasers,” will take place at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 19.

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