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Design and development of a miniature manipulation device for ablation laser surgery (EPS2022/52)

   School of Engineering & Physical Sciences

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  Dr MS Erden, Prof J D Shephard  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Endoluminal surgery for the treatment of colorectal neoplasia is typically carried out using electrocautery tools which imply limited precision and the risk of harm through collateral thermal damage to the adjacent healthy tissue. As a potential alternative, we have successfully demonstrated the technology for colonic epithelial laser ablation by means of picosecond laser pulses, on porcine intestine and cancerous mouse intestine [1].

The goal of this PhD project is the instrumentalization of this cutting-edge technology in order to prove and demonstrate that it can be implemented with conventional medical devices, such as colonoscopes, endoscopes and laparoscopy instruments, and can be used by surgeons in an easy and intuitive way for ablation of cancerous cells. For that purpose, we will leverage our past experience with instrumentation of a laparoscopic laser scan device [2], to build this time a device for laser-based cell ablation. The design and use of the “conic-spiraleur” in [2] closely relates to the needs of our novel laser-based ablation technology in [1] as it

i) scans a tissue surface by travelling a laser beam along lines,

ii) performs the scan following an outward Archimedean spiral lines,

iii) allows achieving the desired shape and line-gaps of the spiral with proper design of the conic structure,

iv) allows controlling the speed of the travel of the laser beam, by simply controlling a single motor.

These are all shown to be necessary and desired features for optimal application of the laser-based ablation [2]. The design we have in [2] will be a starting point and we will further develop, adapt, and modify this design according to the needs and requirements of the laser-based ablation technology. Furthermore, we will use the Robotic Surgery Trainer developed in our laboratory, to test and verify the designed instrument in a robotic surgery relevant setting. This setup allows for tele-operation and 3D vision in a Robotic Surgery Training setting closely replicating the process and activity of a robotic surgeon with actual surgical robots. Furthermore, it also provide haptic-feedback, which is an emergent feature for future surgical robots, and which might prove to be very useful for such robotic ablation application with the instrument we will design and develop.

The project will involve:

  • understanding the technology of laser-based ablation and derivation of the requirements of a mechatronic design for its implementation (Requirements Identification),
  • developing the mechanical design with CAD tools such as SolidWorks or similar (Conceptual Design and CAD Models),
  • developing the actuation mechanism, electronics, and motor control (Actuation),
  • scaled-up (x5) 3D printed implementation and verification of the conceptual design and implementation, (Scaled-up Prototype),
  • getting the actual miniature pieces of the design machined and manufactured (Manufacturing the Parts),
  • assembling the miniature parts to construct the actual prototype (Prototype),
  • testing and verification of the actual prototype on e-vivo tissue experiments (Verification).

This project is scientifically supported by and in relation to the below ongoing and fulfilled EPSRC projects. Therefore, the accepted candidate to the position will work in close collaboration with a team of researchers across the disciplines of physics, mechanical engineering, and robotics.

  • “PreCisE: A Precision laser scalpel for Cancer diagnostics and Eradication” EPSRC EP/V006185/1, £1.2M
  • “U-care: Deep ultraviolet light therapies” EPSRC, EP/T020903/1, £6M
  • “3D Laser Beam Shaping: The True Potential of Laser Based Manufacturing” EPSRC EP/V006312/1, £0.6M
  • “A fluorescence guided steerable laser tool for precision resection of early-stage cancers” EPSRC EP/N02494X/1, £0.6M

How to Apply

1. Important Information before you Apply

When applying through the Heriot-Watt on-line system please ensure you provide the following information:

(a) in ‘Study Option’

You will need to select ‘Edinburgh’ and ‘Postgraduate Research’. ‘Programme’ presents you with a drop-down menu. Choose Chemistry PhD, Physics PhD, Chemical Engineering PhD, Mechanical Engineering PhD, Bio-science & Bio-Engineering PhD or Electrical PhD as appropriate and select September 2022 for study option (this can be updated at a later date if required)

(b) in ‘Research Project Information’

You will be provided with a free text box for details of your research project. Enter Title and Reference number of the project for which you are applying and also enter the potential supervisor’s name.

This information will greatly assist us in tracking your application.

Please note that once you have submitted your application, it will not be considered until you have uploaded your CV and transcripts.

Funding Notes

Heriot-Watt University - James Watt Scholarship (JWS)
There are a number of scholarships available which offer funding from between 3 and 3.5 years at an average stipend rate of £15,000 per year.


[1] R. J. Beck, I. Bitharas, D. P. Hand, T. Maisey, A. J. Moore, M. Shires, R. R. Thomson, N. P. West, D. G. Jayne, and J. D. Shephard, (2020), “Dynamics of picosecond laser ablation for surgical treatment of colorectal cancer”, Scientific Reports, 10 (1): 1-10.
[2] Erden, M.S., Rosa, B., Boularot, N., Gayet, B., Morel, G., and Szewczyk, J., (2014), “Conic-spiraleur: a miniature distal scanner for confocal microlaparoscope”, IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics, 19 (6): 1786-1798.
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