Funding support

Surgery breakthrough for laser bending scientists

Richard Carter and laser

Richard Carter: paradigm shift

Researchers have secured funding to develop 3D laser beams whose ability to shape could help transform cancer surgery.

The breakthrough by a team at Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh, will make it easier and cheaper to produce products that require highly-precise manufacturing, such as medical equipment and mobile devices.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, is backing the team with £586,000 to support the research and development of the lasers for industry application.

Lasers are a crucial component of modern manufacturing, with the global laser processing market projected to grow from £2.8 billion in 2020 to £4.1bn by 2025.

Medical applications could include cancer surgery, where it is hoped more precise medical instruments could allow the resection of tumours without removing healthy surrounding tissue.

Other examples include fabricating waveguide devices to support telecommunications and the internet, microscopy and even astronomic telescopes.

Dr Richard Carter, assistant professor of applied optics and photonics at Heriot-Watt and the project’s lead, said: “This research will address the priority area of digital manufacturing, enabling a bespoke, rapid response capability for the first time. 

“The new methods we are developing represent a paradigm shift in the capabilities of laser-based manufacturing, making it possible to move between 3D beam shapes with zero down-time, low cost and minimal technical know-how.

“Through collaboration with our industry partners, we’ll be able to develop the lasers in line with what industry needs, providing solutions to manufacturing challenges across a wide range of sectors.

“However, this technology could also support research in quantum technology, waveguide physics and the bio-sciences – anywhere where light must be controlled and manipulated.”

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