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Patent highlights

28 May 2003

The pick of this week's patent applications including ideas for monitoring a baby's brain and performing 3D terahertz imaging.

•  Title: Optical cell guidance method and apparatus
Applicant: The University of Texas, US
International application number: WO 03/042723
Researchers at the University of Texas are attempting to patent an optical technique for controlling cell growth. Their cell guidance system applies an optical gradient to the leading edge of the cells to bias the direction of their growth. The illumination “pulls” on the cell proteins stimulating growth towards the light. According to the patent application, the technique differs from current approaches in that it does not trap or hold particles.

•  Title: Method and system for performing three-dimensional terahertz imaging on an object
Applicant: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, US
International application number: WO 03/042670
A technique for generating 3D images using terahertz (THz) waves, electromagnetic radiation that lies in the wavelength region between the infrared and microwaves, is revealed in patent application WO 03/042670. The scheme involves illuminating an object from several different angles with pulses of THz radiation and then using laser pulses and a detector, such as a CCD camera, to detect any changes in the transmitted radiation. According to the application, the THz pulses may be in the form of a scanning spot, a scanning line or a two dimensional array of parallel rays.

•  Title: Biological measurement probe, biological optical measurement instrument using the same, and brain function measurement instrument
Applicant: Hitachi, Japan
International application number: WO 03/041590
Checking that babies have a healthy brain could become easier thanks to an optical measurement probe invented by Hitachi. The optical probe is designed to measure the brain’s blood circulation and activity in response to auditory and visual stimulation. It uses a series of input and output optical waveguides to inject light signals into the subject and also collect them for analysis.

•  Title: Achromatic Fresnel optics for ultraviolet and x-ray radiation
Applicant: Xradia, US
International application number: WO 03/042728
Xradia of California claims to have invented an achromatic Fresnel optic that “effectively solves the high chromatic aberration problem of zone plates”. The optic combines a Fresnel zone plate with a refractive Fresnel lens. The former provides high resolution for imaging and focusing while the latter combines different wavelengths that have been dispersed by the zone plate. Xradia says that the optic has a wide range of potential applications including lithography and imaging.

Oliver Graydon is editor of Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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