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Medicine and wellbeing

Lab on a chip

Early diagnosis can mean the difference between life and death for many patients. At the George Green Institute for Electromagnetics Research, we are using spectroscopy to find new ways of detecting illness at an early stage. 

Our silicon-based research uses ‘lab on a chip’ immunosensors – capable of the real-time identification of multiple analytes with high sensitivity. The technique makes use of ‘light’ guided in silicon structures whose cross-sectional dimensions are of the order of a few hundred nanometres. 

Despite the significant potential of related mid-infrared spectroscopy, rapid throughput is still a real hurdle to its implementation as a clinical tool. It is this timely and important issue that our research is also addressing – combining the talents of academics in electromagnetic simulation, mathematics, physics, computer science, glass science, optical engineering and medicine. 

Success will mean clinical detection and discrimination of illness at an earlier stage, using technology that can identify the molecular and biological ‘fingerprints’ of specific diseases. With a focus on improving healthcare technologies and diagnostics, the work has significant potential benefits for wider society. 

"Success will mean clinical detection and discrimination of illness at an earlier stage, using technology that can identify the molecular and biological ‘fingerprints’ of specific diseases."
Professor Trevor Benson

Indeed, work at Nottingham has already helped to open up a new chapter in healthcare and clinical diagnostics. We were a partner in the EU integrated project Minerva (2012-17) which developed a new imaging technology platform and redefined the state of the art, including multi-spectral tissue imaging and analytical techniques for identifying key diagnostic targets. 

Recently, we have shown that silicon-based integrated optics could also play a key role in the physical implementation of an artificial neural network for future medical diagnostics. 

Trevor Benson

Trevor Benson is a Professor of Opto-Electronics, Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

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