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Engineers and scientists develop low-cost chip-technology for medical diagnosis

(Wien, 30-03-2016) The Medical University of Vienna is heading a European research project, in which engineers and scientists are developing a low-cost and miniaturized chip-technology for improved medical diagnosis, e.g. in ophthalmology. The photonic-integrated technology may become an enabler to bring Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) to broader use in medical care.
 
Over the next four years, a research team consisting of engineers and scientists from European research institutions and from industry will be developing a new photonic technology for low-cost, miniaturized OCT. This technology will be integrated in an ophthalmic diagnostic device and tested together with medical doctors from the General Hospital Vienna.
 
The goal is to dramatically reduce fabrication costs while at the same time increase the performance of OCT technology that is well-established as an imaging modality for the diagnosis and treatment monitoring of important eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy (DR) and glaucoma. It is the hope that this technological jump will improve ophthalmic care but also open the door to new applications of OCT in medical diagnostics and beyond.
 
Better, smaller and cheaper
Integrated optics and electronics can provide a significant size and cost reduction for OCT systems while maintaining imaging quality. A suitable fabrication and packaging technology, combined with optimum design will allow the realization of extremely compact, low cost, and even higher (faster) performing OCT systems. In addition to its low cost and small footprint, this approach provides mechanical stability and high reliability due to its monolithic and essentially alignment-free construction. On top of that, the use of integrated optics and electronics provides a significant manufacturing scalability advantage arising from the micro-fabrication processes (the envisaged silicon-based platform).

Engineers and scientists work together with medical doctors
The Medical University of Vienna is heading the project “Ophthalmic OCT on a Chip (OCTCHIP)”, which consists of a consortium with seven partners from four European countries. The project has been awarded a grant of EUR 4 million from Horizon 2020, the EU program for research and innovation.

The project addresses a significant technical challenge but also a large opportunity by advancing a well-established optical imaging technology for medical care. To evaluate the potential of photonic integrated circuit technology for OCT, the OCTCHIP project will implement an ophthalmic diagnostic device comprising a photonic chip that performs the optical and electrical core functions of OCT. This ready-to-use device will be provided to medical doctors and scientists of the Medical University Vienna for benchmarking. The successful evaluation in an established medical application will make it possible to lower costs and therefore advance the medical care in ophthalmology by making it more broadly available. It is also expected to open the door to the more widespread medical use of OCT, for instance in surgical procedures and in dentistry.

 
For further information:
Wolfgang Drexler, Head of Center for Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, Medical University Vienna, Center for Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, General Hospital Vienna, Mail: wolfgang.drexler@meduniwien.ac.at Phone: +43 1 40400-19860

The project comprises researchers from one university, three research institutions, and three companies.
 
Medical University Vienna, Austria
Tyndall National Institute, Ireland
AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH, Austria
Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS, Germany
EXALOS AG, Switzerland
ams AG, Austria
Carl Zeiss AG, Germany


» Website OCTCHIP