Monolithic Integration of Fresnel Lens with Silicon Microscanner for Endoscopic Imaging
Background The U.S. market for medical imaging equipment increased from $6.7 billion in 2005 to an estimated $7.8 billion in 2007. It should reach $11.6 billion in 2012, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.1%. Medical imaging has brought about great improvements in the quality of health care. New medical technologies, such as advances in diagnostic imaging, are widely considered a major driver of the rise in healthcare spending in the United States. One reason is that innovations in medical imaging often translate into safer and less invasive means of treatment.
Within this imaging market, the immediate target opportunities are: the rigid endoscope market, which is estimated at $1.0B; the flexible endoscope market, estimated at $1.2B; and the research confocal market, which is believed to be worth an estimated $375M.
Commercially available confocal microscopes use bulky free-space optics and are large, cumbersome, expensive, and can only be used for histopathology on biopsy samples. Current early detection is often impeded by poor visual access, difficulty to determine which regions will become malignant, and unwillingness of patients to undergo surgical biopsy for a screening test.
Invention Description Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a method and assembly process to create an ultra-miniaturized high-resolution optical imaging endoscope by monolithically integrating an objective beam-focusing lens element onto the surface of a two-dimensional scanning micromirror. The endoscope design can be designed to be either "forward-looking" or "sideways-looking." Multi-modal operation, plus simultaneous scanning and objective focusing, provides the best of both characteristics.
One of the most significant advantages of the invention is the ability to achieve sharp focus and polarization-independent operation. This is achieved without the need for bulky objective lenses or GRIN focusing elements, which are typically manually assembled into the endoscope. Other advantages are the portability of the device and low cost as a result of the batch fabrication of miniature elements using standard semiconductor manufacturing techniques, which drives cost down while ensuring precision manufacturing standards.
Batch fabrication may provide low-cost mass production of precision Fresnel lenses. Integrated optics on-chip design minimizes alignment of movable optical elements. Polarized-independent operation minimizes optical losses. Endoscope assembly becomes much easier and inexpensive due to fewer internal elements.
Market Potential/Applications Some uses of this technology would be for integration with the rigid endoscope, flexible endoscope, and research benchtop endoscopes. This ultra-miniaturized high resolution optical endoscopic imaging system can be used for the imaging of human organs (heart, bladder, colon, reproductive organs, liver, etc.) that have been typically inaccessible to current generation of optical endoscopes.
The rigid endoscope field has several applications needs for miniaturized confocal technology, which is driven by strong interest from physicians for intra-operative applications requiring real-time imaging, cellular level information, and accurate detection and diagnosis for immediate therapeutic intervention. Flexible endoscope applications include primarily diagnostic medical instruments used in the gastrointestinal tract to image cellular and sub-cellular structures in real time and beneath the surface of tissue. The traditional laboratory research benchtop (non-miniaturized) confocal microscopes (pre-clinical research applications) use fluorescent method to provide sub-micron resolution imaging information without physically removing tissue for histological processing and examination.
Development Stage Lab/bench prototype
IP Status One U.S. patent application filed
UT Researcher Karthik Kumar, Biomedical Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin Xiaojing (John) Zhang, Ph.D., Biomedical Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin
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