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RF and mm-wave imaging using optical modulation

Project Description

Joint supervisors: Prof Euan Hendry, Prof Nick Stone
External partner: Prof Chris Lawrence (QinetiQ)


Radiation in the mm-wave band is intrinsically safe, non-ionising and non-destructive. These frequencies also correspond to a “sweet spot” in the electromagnetic spectrum, where radiation can pass unimpeded through fatty tissues that normally scatter or absorb infrared and visible radiation, while giving rise to useful contrast in protein rich tissues for cancer imaging. This contrast arises primarily from the differing water content in tissues, allowing one to effectively image the water rich tumour tissue through the normally opaque, surrounding fatty tissue. The problem with standard implementations of RF and mm-wave imaging is depth determination - how does one determine the depth of healthy tissue across the entire surface of a tumour?

In this project we will develop a new strategy to this well known problem using frequencies in the range 10 to 50 GHz. Combining this with Exeter developed techniques for near field modulation and image acquisition [1-4], we will be able to image water contrast at differing depths within tissues. We will first optimise the technique, tuning the imaging depth of view to match current guidelines for breast cancer margins, before testing our imaging approach by measuring excised breast samples in the operating theatre unit at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, using histopathology and deep Raman measurements for comparison at known locations. Once fully designed and optimised, we believe that this approach could reduce the occurrence of second surgeries, cancer reoccurrence and metastasis.

[1] R.I.Stantchev et al, Science Adv. 2, 1600190 (2016)
[2] S.M. Hornett et al, Nano Lett. 16, 7019 (2017)
[3] R.I.Stantchev et al, Optica 4,989 (2017)
[4] R.I.Stantchev et al, Scientific Rep. 8, 6924 (2018)

Funding Notes

The 4 year studentship is funded 50:50 by an industrial sponsor and the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the University of Exeter. It is of value around £105,000, which includes £13,000 towards the research project (travel, consumables, equipment etc.), tuition fees, and an annual, tax-free stipend of approximately £16,500 per year for UK students.

Eligible candidates: UK nationals only due to industry sponsor requirements.

This project is subject to funding decision.

How good is research at University of Exeter in Physics?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 40.20

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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