QCL infrared spectroscopic imaging is a faster imaging method than conventional Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) imaging. (Credit: University of Illinois Beckman Institute)

Developing faster imaging techniques that can provide information on the chemical and structural properties of nonbiological macromolecular materials could provide better imaging of biological materials, particularly histology samples. The use of quantum cascade laser-based (QCL) infrared spectroscopic imaging may enable faster diagnosis of cancer.

A recent study identifies QCL infrared spectroscopic imaging as a more rapid method than conventional Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) imaging for examining spherulites — large semicrystalline polymer samples — in order to identify chemical and structural properties. However, the faster the imaging, the more noise that is present. By incorporating QCL, the researchers use a laser source that emits one frequency of IR light at a time. Moreover, it uses a polarized light, which provides better structural information of spherulites.

The researchers are focused on developing imaging techniques to improve how prostate cancer is diagnosed. They hope to broaden the technique for biological samples in a clinical setting. They want to build on work done with FT-IR a few years ago to speed up cancer diagnoses and move the technology into the clinic.”