When surgeons need the best view possible, they rely on almost invisible support systems. Among them, highly flexible and environmentally friendly PURAVIS® glass optical fibers, recently awarded with the German Innovation Award. Karen Holst, Senior Product Manager for Medical at SCHOTT Lighting and Imaging, is an expert on high performance fibers and explains how they efficiently bring light to the right place in or on the human body.
How did the idea for PURAVIS® come about?
Our goal was to produce high-performance fiber optics that, on the one hand, provide particularly high light transmission and, on the other hand, meet growing environmental requirements. We achieved that with a unique glass formulation that eliminates the heavy metal lead and uses a newly developed production process without the refining agents of arsenic and antimony. That is how our “green” PURAVIS® fibers were born.
Where is light transmission important?
Especially in medical applications, white light is essential. For instance, it ensures that inflamed tissue appears in the corresponding color on the display, which provides the surgeon with important information and, ideally, greater diagnostic certainty. Since we use carefully selected raw materials for our glass fibers, the transmission of white light is up to ten percent higher. Light is therefore transmitted without loss and even whiter than with conventional optical fibers.
What other advantages do glass optical fibers offer for medical technology?
In medical technology, flexible optical fibers are used for light transmission within endoscopes. The light source can be either combined with an external light source or with an integrated LED light source on the instrument. In both cases, the heat-intensive generation of light is decoupled from the area where it is needed. This is particularly important in applications that require strong light sources that radiate a corresponding amount of heat. Another advantage of optical fibers is that they are built into the endoscopes in thin flexible bundles. These automatically fit into existing gaps during the production process, enabling very small outer diameters, especially for rigid endoscopes.
What does the future of PURAVIS® look like?
The trend towards minimally invasive, robot-assisted surgery requires ever thinner, more powerful endoscopic light guides. Thanks to an improved numerical aperture, the light guides absorb more light to start with. At the same time, low attenuation in the visible range results in higher light yield at the end of the light guide. This means that light can also be transmitted to the patient’s body over longer distances without loss. PURAVIS® glass optical fibers enable new illumination methods such as photodynamic diagnostics or fluorescence applications for early detection of gastroenterological and dental cancer. The future of PURAVIS® fibers looks bright indeed.