Can You Hear the Light?

Photo by Hike Shaw on Unsplash

Photoacoustic Imaging

In short, photoacoustic imaging, also known as optoacoustic imaging is a technique that leverages the photoacoustic effect of light, dating back to the time of Alexander Graham Bell.

Producing Images

So, how does this effect apply to medical imaging?

Photoacoustic imaging of vein patterns and their oxygen saturation. Scientists are using this to monitor blood flow
Photoacoustic imaging of vein patterns and their oxygen saturation. Scientists are using this to monitor blood flow in the brain and its activity in real-time

Applications

Current tools for diagnostic imaging, such as CT or MRI all pose risks such as radiation and danger to patients with medical implants. Photoacoustic imaging provides people with the opportunity to get an accurate image without the risk of DNA damage or hefty price.

Photoacoustic imaging of a patient’s hand vein patterns
Photoacoustic imaging of a patient’s hand veins at different wavelengths. At different wavelengths, different features become visible.

Disadvantages

Despite the apparent advantages of this technique over similar methods, researchers have been facing numerous roadblocks. One of these challenges is calibration and noise — commercial ultrasound transducers are sensitive to fluctuations in the surrounding area, and scans have to be performed in a highly controlled environment.

A basic photoacoustic setup using multiple lasers and lenses.
An image showing a small fraction of the complexity of a photoacoustic setup.

Takeaways

Photoacoustic imaging is a drastically different method of imaging the body — providing real-time, modular, and high-resolution models of our inner workings. This system shows great promise, and its implementation in society could lead to a new era of medical imaging.

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Aaryan Harshith

Aaryan Harshith

I write about things every week(ish).