Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 1 - NULTIS (Next generation ultrafast continuously running imaging system for biomedical applications)

- Summary description of the project objectives
In biomedicine, circulating tumor cell (CTC) counts are an established prognostic marker for cancer metastasis. Detection of extremely rare CTCs in patient’s blood requires high-throughput cell screening in large heterogeneous samples. This challenging task can be fulfilled by ultrafast microscopic imaging technique, which is also of paramount importance in a wide range of scientific and engineering applications.
In this Career Integration Grant, we aim to develop and demonstrate the next generation ultrafast time-stretch microscopic imaging technique by merging state-of-the-art optical communications hardware, advanced signal processing algorithms, with bioengineering technology. Some key limitations and technical challenges existed in the current ultrafast imaging systems will be addressed by designing and implementing new imaging system structures, exploring new optical elements, and incorporating novel photonic signal processing algorithms. In particular, the key objectives of this project are: (i) To develop a high-throughput phase-contrast microscopy system; (ii) To develop new optical design of ultrafast imaging system which allows greatly improved spatial resolution; (iii) To develop a real-time Raman spectroscopy based imaging system enabling high-throughput Raman scattering measurement; (iv) To explore photonic integrated circuits (PIC) technique towards on-chip high-throughput imaging system.

- Description of the work performed since the beginning of the project
Since the beginning of this project on 1st July 2014, work has been carried out following on the proposed research programmes. A summary of the work performed so far is summarized below.
(1) Building a prototype ultrafast imaging system. Upon beginning my lectureship position at the University of Kent, I have successfully built a prototype ultrafast imaging system from scratch at Kent. With the support from this CIG grant, a PhD student has been recruited and free-space imaging optics components have been purchased. The University of Kent has also made significant investment in photonics, which allows me to purchase a mode-locked fibre laser, a 100GS/s real-time oscilloscope and a 12GS/s arbitrary waveform generator, which are all essential equipment for the proposed research.
(2) Carrying out the proposed research as outlined in the proposal. In particular, a phase contrast imaging system has been developed for ultrafast real-time optical coherence tomography application; a fibre-compatible spectrally-encoded imaging system has been developed, featuring improved energy efficiency, simpler structure and inherent fibre compatibility; photonic compressive sensing technique has been investigated and incorporated in ultrafast imaging system to reduce the overall data volume produced by the system.
(3) Disseminate the outputs of the project. The preliminary results of this project have been well disseminated via publications in high-impact journals and presentations in major international conferences and various local workshops.
(4) Continuing personal development. During the project period, I have also been actively involved in various learning and training activities, such as the Early Career Researcher (ECR) Network and Grant Factory events organized by the Research Services, Effective Supervision Workshop organized by Graduate School, and the Enterprise and Impact Training Workshop organized by Kent Innovation and Enterprising (KIE). I have been awarded the Postgraduate Certificate on Higher Education (PGCHE) and successfully completed my probation period at Kent.

- Description of the main results achieved so far
(1) A fibre-compatible spectrally-encoded imaging system has been developed, which offers greatly improved energy efficiency, simpler structure and inherent fibre compatibility. The preliminary results have been presented at 2016 SPIE Photonics Europe conference and the Aston Year of Light 2015 Workshop (won the Best Student Poster Prize). Comprehensive experimental results have been published in Optics Letters.
(2) A new photonic time-stretch ultrafast imaging system with improved imaging resolution has been demonstrated. A full-length paper is being prepared and to be submitted to Optics Express.
(3) A data-compressed time-stretch ultrafast imaging system has been developed. Preliminary results have been accepted for oral presentation at the 2016 IEEE Photonics Conference. A journal paper has been generated and submitted to IEEE Photonics Technology Letters.
(4) New all-optical random pattern generator towards low-cost data-compressed ultrafast imaging system has been developed. Preliminary results have been accepted for oral presentation at the 15th International Conference on Optical Communications and Networks (ICOCN 2016).

- Expected final results and their potential impact and use
The final results of this project will be a new ultrafast imaging technology with great potential in biomedical applications. It will contribute to the health of strong UK research base in medical imaging and to the advancements in the use of imaging in diagnosis of cancers. This research will provide new tools for life science research and be of direct benefit to the public health. The developed novel ultrafast imaging technology has potential for commercialization as a pre-clinical imaging tool within five years and within a decade for clinical use and will fill a broad spectrum of medical device markets.

Reported by

United Kingdom


Life Sciences
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