From The Editor | October 19, 2022

Bright Ideas — Two In Vivo Solutions Offer Quicker, Better Cancer Detection, Booz Allen Hamiton Invests In DEWs

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By Abby Proch, former editor


Leaning further into the trending direct energy (DE) business, Booz Allen Hamilton has created HELworks, a business unit responsible for developing direct energy weapons (DEWs). Intent on minimizing SWaP and using modular architectures, HELworks will focus on three products: the High Energy Laser Mission Equipment Package (HEL MEP), the Modular Compact High Energy Laser (MCHEL), and LightEngine, a complex subsystem of “power, cooling, lasers, control, and integrated packaging.”

Also at the intersection of business development and military and defense news comes an announcement from Leonardo DRS that it has secured a $579 million contract with the U.S. Army to supply its next-gen thermal weapons sights. Leonardo DRA Electro-Optical Infrared Systems (EOIS) will provide its Family of Weapons Sight – Individual (FWS-I), “a stand-alone, clip-on weapon sight that connects wirelessly to helmet-mounted vision systems including the enhanced night vision goggle binocular.” The FWS-I will be produced at the EOIS facility in Melbourne, Florida.

In mergers and acquisitions, Viavi Solutions has successfully acquired position, navigation, and timing (PNT) developer Jackson Labs Technologies. The deal will bring the latest PNT “modules, subsystems, and box-level solutions” to Viavi while also expanding Jackson Labs’ global reach. Jackson Labs’ solutions are favored by military and defense, “energy distribution infrastructure, Low Earth Orbit operators, and 5G service providers.” Lumentum is also expanding its reach with the addition of new manufacturing operations and research & development facilities in Slovenia. The 137,000-square foot expansion more than doubles the company’s presence in the country and is expected to support its industrial fiber laser business.

A new handheld, terahertz “skinometer” developed by the University of Warwick may be the latest technological device to advance cancer diagnosis and treatment. Funded by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) through the end of the year, the project uses terahertz illumination in vivo to indicate and measure tumors beneath the surface of the skin. The goal of the project and its device is to more quickly and accurately identify cancer to improve treatment options and timelines for patients. The group is also studying effectiveness of various sunscreens on myriad skin types.

Also aimed at improving in vivo imaging is a dual-wavelength excitation fluorescence (DWEF) imaging system developed by researchers at the University of Washington in St. Louis School of Medicine. Although near-infrared (NIR) imaging can have difficulty reaching necessary depths to produce reliable data, the DWEF approach uses the “wavelength-dependent attenuation of light in tissue to determine fluorophore depth” and is highly accurate in vivo. What’s more, the imaging system is portable and low cost, two perks that make it perfect for clinical use, say the researchers. Still, the system would require “further automation” to be ready for a clinical trial.

A mash-up of two-photon laser printing (2PLP) and dynamic covalent chemistry developed by a team of researchers in Germany has allowed the creation of 3D microstructures that can “grow in size and harden at will.” These “living” 3D-printed structures, usually microns or nanometers in scale, can be used in microrobotics, microfluidics, and biomedicine. Now, with a novel ink that can be modified after printing, these structures enable customers to specify properties on demand.  

Speaking of microstructures, another team has developed a dual laser approach to printing tiny 3D structures “in the blink of an eye.” Stereolithography 3D printing involves creating a 3D object layer by layer in a container of resin using UV light to cure the intended structure. Traditionally, it’s been a slow process with low-resolution results. But now, light-sheeting printing is bringing two lasers into the process — one blue and one red — to speed up the process to less than 100 microseconds. The research team intends to progress from lasers to LEDs as the excitation source and to print structures in the centimeter scale.

In conference news, Vision Expo wrapped up its 30th conference and trade show last week, having welcomed more than 6,500 visitors from 60 countries. While many of the attendees hailed from Western Europe, the conference welcomed a growing cohort from South Korea, Japan, and the U.S. It was quite the international show, with roughly 60 percent of the exhibiting vendors coming from abroad. This year, conference programing centered on embedded vision, hyperspectral imaging, and deep learning.

Looking ahead to the 2023 spate of conferences and exhibitions, SPIE has opened up registration for Photonics West, happening Jan. 28 to Feb. 2 at The Moscone Center in San Francisco. The world’s largest annual optics and photonics conference and exhibition is set to host more than 1,000 vendor companies between its two exhibitions, BiOS Expo and Photonics West Exhibition; offer more than 50 technical courses in topics ranging from VR/AR/MR to quantum computing; and feature more than 4,500 presentations. Photonics West is again welcoming its latest addition to the conference lineup, Quantum West, now in its second year. Photonics West will also feature the annual Prism Awards and SPIE Startup Challenge.