WAVESCOPE: Streamlining multimode fibre technology for medical imaging
Since their introduction in medicine, fibre optics have opened up new application fields ranging from invasive and non-invasive treatments to endoscopic surgery and imaging diagnostics. Despite the benefits of multimode fibres over other fibre alternatives, some light rays take much longer to travel through the fibre than others, contributing to modal dispersion. This necessitates lengthy pre- and post-processing of the optical signal, limiting their use in real-time imaging. The EU-funded WAVESCOPE project will develop technology to overcome this challenge. Its aim is to demonstrate stable high-power and highly focused optical beams with multimode fibres. If successful, this technology will make a real breakthrough in the area of intraoperative imaging.
The WAVESCOPE project is about exploiting a novel optical concept recently introduced by our team in the domain of medical imaging. This concept deals with the frontier research topic in the photonics, i.e. the self-control of the spatial quality of optical beams in multimode nonlinear optical fibers. The WAVESCOPE technology is poised to enable a breakthrough in the clinical domain, providing for the first time ever the stable delivery of high power and strongly focused optical beams with multimode optical fibers into the demanding domain of intraoperative imaging. In the state-of-the-art multimode nonlinear optical devices, propagation in multimode fibers is hampered by randomization of light beams, leading to beam scrambling after short lengths of fiber. This makes the use of multimode fibers unviable for real-time imaging, because of the necessary lengthy pre- and post-processing of the optical signal. Our approach is to exploit the intensity dependent refractive index of fibers to recover the spatial beam quality of a multimode wave. In the project we shall develop a new multimode fiber based device for scanning 3D samples with micrometer resolution by using ultrashort high peak power optical pulses, whereby fiber nonlinearity provides an environmentally robust compensation of temporal and spatial dispersion, thus preventing information spreading in time domain, and beam quality loss in the spatial domain. WAVESCOPE technology has applications in many industry fields: here we will demonstrate the proof-of-principle generation of high-resolution optical images in optical microscopy/endoscopy, thereby resolving an uncovered need on the introduction of the intraoperative pathologic assessment in oncology through the in-situ optical biopsy (see Figure 1).