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Sunbeams promise low-cost surgery

23 Aug 2002

Israeli scientists say focused sunlight offers a low-cost alternative to laser surgery.

Scientists in Israel have developed a device based on a concave dish that intensifies sunlight by a factor of 15 000. By focusing this light into an optical fiber and delivering it to an operating theatre, the team says its solar-surgery setup promises to be a low-cost alternative to laser surgery. (Solar Energy 72 459)

"Our experimental evidence shows that solar surgery is as good as the best laser fiberoptic surgery," said Jeffery Gordon from Israel's Ben-Gurion University. "We view this as a cost-effective alternative, at least for sun-belt climates and sunny developing countries."

The prototype system uses a curved, 200 mm-diameter dish to collect the sunlight and focus it onto a small mirror. The mirror then redirects the rays into an optical fiber with a 1 mm diameter. A solar tracker follows the sun across the sky and the whole system is encased to avoid dust contaminating the optics.

Using this approach, Gordon and colleagues have transported the light to a remote target up to 20 meters away. "The net solar power delivered at the distal end of the fiber is in excess of 8 W," he says.

The researchers have used this concentrated output to perform ex-vivo solar surgery on chicken breasts and livers, which has shown promising results. The first experimental findings from this study are due to be published in Applied Physics Letters on 30 September.

Gordon now hopes to complete a full surgical study on animal livers and move to larger mammals. "Our eventual aim is solar surgery for people," he says.

A commercial version of the mini-dish is also on the cards. According to Gordon, the unit price would be around USD 1000.

Jacqueline Hewett is news reporter on Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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