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Non-contact transient optical coherence elastography for non-invasive quantitation of mechanical properties of skin

School of Science and Engineering

Dundee United Kingdom Biomedical Engineering Mechanical Engineering

About the Project

There are many skin disorders where changes in skin quality can produce much morbidity. This includes the diseases of skin sclerosis (thickening/scarring/inelasticity) such as Systemic Sclerosis (SSc), and the diseases of skin thinning (eg keloid scar formation where there is hypertrophy with reduced strength). In these disorders, both diagnosis and management have been challenging because of our inability to quantify accurately the pathology and thus measure the success or otherwise of treatments. Thus, utilizing of non-intrusive, non-invasive elastography methods that can accurately measure skin properties in vivo is eagerly demanded. Optical coherence elastography (OCE) takes advantages of high resolution of optical coherence tomography (OCT), has been widely studied to evaluate the material mechanical properties. However, currently popular vibrational elastography is limited by the OCT imaging depth of the tissue, which is less than 1.5mm (can only reach to upper layer of dermis). It largely limits the clinical application as most of skin diseases happen in dermis layer.

This proposal is designed to use transient wave method and phase sensitive OCT (PhS-OCT) system to provide localized and quantitative mechanical property of layered biological tissues, especially skin. The velocities of transient waves, i.e. shear wave (SW) and surface acoustic wave (SAW) are closely correlated to material stiffness, i.e. transient waves are propagating faster in hard material and slower in soft material. SAW and SW can be generated by a Q-switched laser pulse. SW is propagating in epidermis and upper dermis of skin (1-~1.5 mm), while broad-band SAWs have the nature of dispersion (different frequency contents penetrate into different depth with different velocities), by analysis the different velocities of different frequency contents of SAW signals we can obtain the quantitative elasticity information of dermis and subcutaneous fat layer of skin (~1 mm-~4 mm). A PhS-OCT is used to measure the both SW and SAW signals propagating on the sample surface, in addition to provide high resolution structure image of skin. This method is feasible to provide the bulk quantitative Young’s modulus value of all epidermis, dermis and subcutaneous subcutaneous fat layer, and skin structure analysis, i.e. surface condition and skin layer thickness measurement at the same time. It would be possible to use in clinical diagnosis and treatment of different kinds of skin diseases with various requirements.

This proposal aims to develop a novel non-contact transient OCE system capable of quantitatively measuring the biomechanical properties of tissue to aid a rapid and accurate diagnosis and assessment of tissue abnormalities. This study involves collaborative and multidisciplinary research to create a new imaging technology capable of accurate quantitative measurement of human skin layers with ultrahigh resolution in real time.

For informal enquiries about the project, contact Dr Chunhui Li ()
For general enquiries about the University of Dundee, contact

Applicants must have obtained, or expect to obtain, a first or 2.1 UK honours degree, or equivalent for degrees obtained outside the UK in a relevant discipline.

English language requirement: IELTS (Academic) score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 5.5 in each of the four components). Other, equivalent qualifications will be accepted. Full details of the University’s English language requirements are available online:


Step 1: Email Dr Chunhui Li () to (1) send a copy of your CV and (2) discuss your potential application and any practicalities (e.g. suitable start date).

Step 2: After discussion with Dr Li, formal applications can be made via UCAS Postgraduate. When applying, please follow the instructions below:

Candidates must apply for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in either Biomedical Engineering or Mechanical Engineering:
- Biomedical Engineering:
- Mechanical Engineering:

In the ‘provider questions’ section of the application form:
- Write the project title and ‘’ in the ‘if your application is in response to an advertisement’ box;
- Write the lead supervisor’s name and give brief details of your previous contact with them in the ‘previous contact with the University of Dundee’ box.

In the ‘personal statement’ section of the application form, outline your suitability for the project selected.

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project. The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for tuition fees, project specific bench fees and living expenses via external sponsorship or self-funding.

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