Researchers Create Micro Optical-Fibre Sensors With Biomed Capabilities

A research team at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) claim a breakthrough with their development of a microscopic optical fibre sensor for medical surveillance applications within the human body. Team leader Professor Hwa-yaw TAM, Chair Professor of Photonics and Head of the Department of Electrical Engineering at PolyU describes his team’s novel fibre optic microsensors as “biocompatible, supple, and extremely sensitive to very small pressure changes inside the human body.”

Medical applications run the gamut from improving surgery precision to novel ways of monitoring injury or illness recovery from within the body. Examples include smart cochlear implantation, bone-fracture recovery monitoring, or navigation monitoring in cardiac catheterization.

According to the researchers, deploying traditional optical fibres made of glass or plastic inside the human body has limitations. Glass is too stiff and brittle and plastic fibres tend to absorb water.

Tam’s team bases their fibre optic sensors on ZEONEX, a unique plastic material that does not present the usual problems of glass and traditional plastic. Importantly, the team’s sensor boosts sensitivity by adding a side hole running in parallel with the light transmission path inside the optical fibre. Therefore, the team names calls it the Side Hole Polymer Optical Fibre Sensor.

The biocompatible can be as small as a few micro meters and their pressure sensitivity is reportedly 20x that of traditional optical fibre sensors. Professor Tam’s research team is currently working with counterparts from Australian and Japanese universities to develop various sensors for medical monitoring applications. They are also working to expand the sensors’ ability to measure other physical or chemical changes like pH and temperature.

For more details, contact Matt Ho, Senior Manager, Communications and Public Affairs at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University via Email.

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