Low-cost imaging technology that could improve laser surgery safety has earned two Queen’s University physics graduate students first prize at the 29th Congress on Applications of Lasers and Electro-Optics poster contest.
Paul Webster, the project’s lead author who shared the award with Joe Yu, said “We are happy to get the acceptance from the community. It’s really exciting to see other people excited about what we do.”
Additional research and input was contributed by graduate student Ben Leung, principal investigator James Fraser, and undergraduate students Logan Wright and Kevin Mortimer.
Currently the use of lasers is limited in some surgical cases because, although they can be focused on a tiny spot, the beam is not a set length which makes it problematic to control cut depth. The Queen’s researchers’ innovative imaging technology can see below the point of drilling and provide information that enables the surgeon from cutting too far.
This technology could improve laser surgery safety and eventually allow lasers to be used for medical procedures where greater control is required. The research could also be used for industrial purposes, enabling welders to accurately determine how deep their welding has penetrated. The imaging technology can also provide necessary details to the user about molten metal in the drill hole.
The Queen’s University submission was the only Canadian entry out of 50 competitors from around the globe. It was credited in part for presenting a low-cost system with both medical and industrial applications. The system claims to be require less than $10,000 in parts and can be integrated into existing laser processing heads. The imaging technology is delivered in tandem with the laser’s cutting beam itself.
“We demonstrated that feedback control makes a laser drill seven times more precise at cutting to a certain depth,” said Paul Webster.
The next step for researchers is to ramp up an important research operation to develop their proof of concept into a proven technology safe for surgeries and for welding. Several companies have already expressed interest for both industrial and medical applications.
“That is a big task, but there are a lot of positive signs that we can get the financial and personnel support we need to take the next step and really help a Canadian startup company,” Mr. Webster says.
Laser surgery photo by Vet Moves.com. End photo courtesy Queen’s University News Centre.