Capital call for ST/T000651/1, "Harnessing Photonic Technologies for Deep-Tissue Imaging"

Lead Research Organisation: Heriot-Watt University


Multi-photon imaging is a ubiquitous tool in life sciences research, where pulsed tuneable lasers are required for precision microscopy. The majority of multi-photon imaging research employs two-photon fluorescent techniques, however three-photon fluorescence is emerging as a powerful instrument for deep-tissue (> 1mm) imaging as it offers reduced tissue scattering and enables access to a wide variety of fluorescent dyes and proteins. Non-destructive and non-invasive high-resolution imaging of cells through surrounding tissue and bone would be groundbreaking for research into areas including regenerative medicine and leukemia.

The ideal three-photon excitation source is a low repetition frequency, high-energy femtosecond laser tuneable in the near-infrared with low average power to avoid tissue heating. The laser industry is focused on the two-photon imaging market, serviced by well-proven ~100MHz fixed wavelength and tunable sources. Three-photon excitation systems based on optical parametric amplifiers (OPAs) are available from select manufacturers, however these are highly inefficient and are prohibitively expensive for the majority of research facilities.

A collaboration between an industrial laser manufacturer (Chromacity, UK) and STFC-funded academic research in photonics (McCracken, Heriot-Watt University), this project will demonstrate prototype cost-efficient lasers for three-photon microscopy, addressing this customer-driven demand by exploring two novel laser architectures to realize few-MHz optical parametric oscillators (OPOs), pumped by Chromacity's robust fiber laser technology. We will combine patented HWU IP in the generation of few-MHz high-energy OPO pulses with know-how in the construction of dispersion- controlled compact cavities to develop a commercial alternative to the dominant market offering.

Working directly with early-adopters (Packer, Oxford; Lo Celso, Imperial; Williams, Edinburgh) and industrial beneficiaries (Scientifica), we will evaluate our OPO and develop it to a level where it can be brought to market in a compressed timeframe.


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