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Patent highlights

23 Aug 2002

The pick of this week's hottest patent applications in the world of photonics.

•  A road traffic monitoring system has become one of the latest inventions to exploit optical fiber sensors. QinetiQ, the UK technology transfer company, is patenting an scheme that uses interferometry and a series of optical fiber sensors deployed on a highway to measure traffic flows (WO 02/065424). When a vehicle passes the sensor, it induces an optical phase shift that is detected by an interferometric interrogation system.

•  Diabetics may soon be benefiting from a noninvasive optical method of measuring a person's glucose level. Instrumentation Metrics of Arizona, US, is patenting an apparatus for doing the task that relies on near-infrared spectroscopy of the skin (WO 02/065090). According to the firm, changes in the water distribution and chemistry of living tissue lead to alterations in the absorbance spectrum of skin. By measuring these changes and compensating for any unrelated effects noninvasive glucose measurements may be performed.

•  A hollow, doughnut-shaped optical beam is the key to a novel particle sizing sensor invented by scientists from the California Institute of Technology (WO 02/065088). Particles pass across the beam and those striking the beam scatter light to a detector while others pass through the center of the beam. By using an asymmetric beam the particles' direction of travel may also be determined.

•  Nidek of Japan is patenting a "vision regenerating device" to restore the sight to patients' with a diseased retina (WO 02/064072). The scheme consists of a photosensor implanted in the patient's eye and a means of generating a suitable light flux for illuminating the photosensor. Use of a suitable light flux allows the patient to recognize photographed objects.

•  The task of choosing a new pair of spectacles may be about to become easier thanks to a patent application from Rodenstock. The German imaging and lens specialist has designed a "method for simulating and demonstrating the optical effects of glasses on the human face". The scheme, outlined in international patent application WO 02/065199, relies on computer-based image processing to reveal the effect of different spectacle frames and lenses on the appearance of a person.

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

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