New laser microscope could revolutionise cancer diagnosis

A new kind of microscope with the potential to cut cancer diagnosis times could go into commercial production.

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Daylight Solutions, which pioneered the quantum cascade laser (QCL), $420,000 to investigate how the new laser could be commercialised. Experts say that the device could mean cancer diagnosis results may be available in minutes rather than days.

The latest funding is the second phase in the research programme. The first phase has been completed and, according to, its aim was to “demonstrate that broadly tunable infrared microscope based on QCL sources and microbolometer detectors was feasible”.

Daylight Solutions will develop a commercial prototype over the next two years, in preparation for a production scale-up. The NSF has described the device as a potential ‘game changer’.

An NSF abstract states, “The QCL microscope to be built in Phase II will revolutionise infrared microscopy instrumentation.”

It adds, “Based on demonstrated performance of components in Phase I, it is estimated that the time to screen a tissue array for signs of cancer will be reduced from six days with a FTIR microscope to just three minutes with a QCL microscope.”

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