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UK hyperspectral imaging firm bags £1M deal

31 Aug 2010

Glasgow-based Gilden Photonics lands its biggest-ever contract, to deliver hyperspectral imaging systems for medical screening.

Gilden Photonics has won a £1 million contract to supply hyperspectral imaging systems for a commercial application in life sciences.

The small company, which employs less than ten people at its headquarters in Clydebank, Scotland, says that the contract – the largest in its five-year history – will enable it to double its workforce, as demand for hyperspectral imaging systems begins to move out of the laboratory and into the field.

Although Gilden won't say exactly what those systems will be used to analyze, its "multi-national" customer is set to benefit from a completely new analytical capability, and will use the systems to screen bodily fluids and identify life-threatening medical conditions.

The contract, which follows a six-month feasibility study, is expected to be fulfilled with the delivery of systems by November this year, by which time Gilden is hopeful of receiving similar orders.

The hyperspectral technique images across a huge range of frequencies, from the ultraviolet through the long-infrared parts of the spectrum. It has long been recognized as a powerful analytical tool, but commercial development has been held up by the cost of systems, which rely on high-specification cameras that can be expensive.

Commercial breakthrough
But with suitable cameras now becoming more widely available, and companies such as Gilden finding engineering solutions to reduce overall system costs, hyperspectral imaging is starting to break through to the commercial sector. Gilden now offers five different hyperspectral systems.

Kevin Lynch, Gilden's sales director, told optics.org that those systems had already attracted interest from the food industry, for quality control in meat production, as well as the defense sector, where long-infrared imaging capability is seen as a key advantage.

"We have developed the technology and made it economically viable to be used by a number of industries to identify and measure materials – whether its counterfeit alcohol, damaged human tissue or the consistency of a loaf of bread," Lynch said. He adds that further applications in the pharmaceutical industry and in materials recycling – where hyperspectral imaging can distinguish between different types of plastics – were future growth areas.

Gilden was originally set up by managing director John Gilchrist and Richard Dennis of Edinburgh Instruments, and specializes in optical spectroscopy. As well as developing and manufacturing its own systems, the firm distributes a range of components and instruments supplied by other companies.

Still owned by its management team, Gilden is about to expand by adding a 2500 sq. ft. manufacturing and development facility. The company has also helped to establish the world's first center dedicated to hyperspectral imaging, at the University of Strathclyde, which opened earlier this year.

The emergence of hyperspectral imaging as a commercially viable, cost-effective analytical technique is sure to attract the attention of large OEMs, although the supply of systems is currently dominated by small companies, says Lynch.

"Hyperspectral imaging has been around for a few years but the technology has remained largely untapped," he added. "It can be used in dentistry, help farmers search out weeds and pests, and assist with homeland defense and crime detection. The list of applications is almost endless."

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