Multispectral light sensor could enable low-cost medical imaging

A team of researchers at the University of Surrey in England have developed a multispectral light sensor that detects ultraviolet (UV) to visible and near-infrared (NIR) light, and allows medical and security imaging via low-cost cameras.

Related: Getting started with spectral imaging

NIR light can be used to perform noninvasive medical procedures, such as measuring the oxygen level in tissue and detecting tumors. It is also already commonly used in security camera systems and for quality control in the agriculture and food industry.

The researchers believe that having a single low-cost NIR system, in addition to conventional imaging, opens up many new possibilities. “Until now, specialist light sensors have been limited in the kinds of light they can detect, with multiple sensors required to measure different ranges of the light spectrum, significantly increasing cost,” says Dr. Richard Curry of the University of Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute, who led the work.

“The new technology could allow surgeons to ‘see’ inside tissue to find tumors prior to surgery as well as equip consumer products, such as cameras and mobile phones, with night imaging options. This is useful for capturing quality pictures in the dark, and may eventually enable parents to simply monitor a child’s blood or tissue oxygenation level via a smartphone camera, which could be linked to healthcare professionals.”  

The sensors are highly flexible and can be produced cheaply, using the same laser printers found in homes and offices, and unlike other sensors, do not require specialized manufacturing conditions.

Full details of the team's work appear in the journal Scientific Reports; for more information, please visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep05041.

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