Archive for July 31, 2003

Sometimes, I'm just friggin' amazed.

July 31, 2003 Leave a comment

Israeli physicists working at Ben-Gurion University have developed a cheap alternative to lasers used in operations like destruction of liver tumors in humans. It relies on an energy source that is cheap, abundant and is widely available in both developed countries and the most remote areas on Earth – sunshine.

That’s right, they came up with a solar-powered surgical tool.

“The working prototype made by Israeli physicists concentrates sunlight down a fibre-optic cable to provide a tool for surgeons. Jeffrey Gordon and his colleagues at Ben-Gurion University in Israel hope it might one day replace the expensive surgical lasers used in operations such as the destruction of tumours in the liver.”

“The light for the surgical “suntrap” is gathered by a parabolic mirrored dish, 20 centimetres across. This concentrates the light, which is then focused on to the tip of an optical fibre. The fibre can be up to 100 metres long.”

“The device delivers less than a third of the light flux densities of surgical lasers, which have a typical output of 100 Watts per square-millimetre. “But in our clinical trial, we found that the optimal light density was just 3 W/mm2 for destroying liver cells,” Gordon told New Scientist. “We were able to reach temperatures of 60 °C in the cells, which is enough to kill them.” ”

“The equipment relies on a commercially available sun-tracker and can only be used on cloudless days. But Gordon points out that “in Israel, we have clear skies for 300 days of the year. And most laser surgery is not emergency surgery, it is scheduled and so can be rearranged to fit with climatic conditions.” ”

“They believe the equipment can be produced for a few thousand dollars, compared to about $120,000 for laser equipment. The team will now test their device on rats with tumours, and then on other animals including pigs, which have similar-sized livers to humans.”

Wow. The added bonus? Most of the countries that can really use a cheaper alternative to expensive surgical lasers just happen to be the ones that are generally the most bathed in sunshine.

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