The Near and Far Future of Raman Microscopy

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Engineering


For some time the trend in many high-value industries has been to manufacture ever smaller devices. This trend is shown in its extreme case in the development of nanotechnology. This is the manufacture of devices which are a few billions of a metre in size. Nanotechnology holds the promise of huge increases in computing power and memory storage to name but a very few.A major problem in nanotechnology is in knowing that you've actually made what you set out to! There are techniques which enable the visualisation of these small objects, but there are no ways to tell whether it is made of the correct materials in the right place and with the proper function. We aim to develop technologies which will allow a scientist to actually probe the chemistry as well as the physical size of a nanodevice or molecule. We'll use extremely small gold needles which can act as lighting rods for light! These will create very powerful and very small light sources which we can put immediately next to the nanodevices. From the interaction of the light and the material we can understand its chemical fingerprint. The needle can also be used at the same time to 'feel' the size of the object. This instrument would be of huge value to scientists and those interested in manufacturing on this scale, particularly the makers of computer chips.The development of this instrument will also spin-off new possibilities in the actual creation of nanodevices. The light at the needle tip could be used to burn away material allowing the sculpting of the device's architecture. Also the needle could be used as tweezers to move tiny amounts of material / single molecules or maybe atoms. These possibilities would bring about a revolution in manufacturing and science. In application to medicine it would allow single cell surgery. This tool could cut open a cell, identify and remove a faulty component and the seal-up the cell after its removal.The knowledge and experience gained in developing the tools described will be unrivalled. It can be predicted that this level of knowledge will create new opportunities in other areas of application. One such area may be the field of computing with light. It is somewhat counter-intuitive but light can be transmitted along metal wires! These wires have to be very thin and supported on specific materials. The light can also hop along a chain of tiny metal dots and can go around corners or through networks. This raises the possibility that circuits, like those made in silicon for today's computers, may in the future transmit light as well as, or even instead of, electricity. If this should succeed, then a few decades from now Bill Clinton's 2000 goal of having every piece of information contained in the US Library of Congress (130 million items on approximately 530 miles of bookshelves) stored on a memory device the size of a sugar lump will be possible.
Description This grant investigated a new type of microscopy that is able to image cells and tissue without needing to stain them first. It is potentially valuable as a fundamental research tool out also as a diagnostic technology for various diseases. We also considered how to evolve this microscope to be able to achieve much higher magnifications than are usually possible and prove that this was indeed theoretically possible but practically challenging.
Exploitation Route Our publications form the basis for ongoing research into this area, by us and others.
Sectors Agriculture

Food and Drink



including Industrial Biotechology

Description Cancer Research UK
Amount £250,000 (GBP)
Organisation Cancer Research UK 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2011 
End 08/2013