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LLNL Wins Top Innovation Award For MEMS-Based Adaptive Optics Scanning Laser Ophthalmoscope

Livermore, California – July 5, 2007:   Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have garnered five awards for developing cutting-edge technologies with commercial potential, including one for the MEMS-based Adaptive Optics Scanning Laser Ophthalmoscope (MAOSLO) retinal imaging

Five teams of LLNL scientists and engineers have won awards from the trade journal R&D Magazine for developing advances among the top 100 industrial inventions worldwide for 2006. They worked with five universities, four industrial collaborators and another national laboratory.

This year’s R&D 100 awards, sometimes called the “Oscars of invention,” will be presented Oct. 18 during a black-tie dinner in the Grand Ballroom of Chicago’s Navy Pier.

“We are pleased by the Laboratory’s continued success in producing innovations that benefit the nation and U.S. industry,” said Cherry Murray, LLNL’s deputy director for Science and Technology. “These technologies highlight the Laboratory’s long-standing tradition of using multidisciplinary teams to solve important national problems.”

Atlas of Laser Scanning Ophthalmoscopy, Scheuerle
With this year’s awards, the Laboratory has captured a total of 118 such awards since 1978. Department of Energy (DOE) labs received 32 R&D 100 awards in this year’s judging.

“Once again, DOE’s labs are at the cutting edge of innovation with new technology developments to enhance America’s economic and national security,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman said. “My heartiest congratulations to the DOE researchers and scientists that have won R&D Magazine’s prestigious awards this year.”
The Livermore researchers have helped develop a new instrument that could revolutionize retinal imaging, providing eye doctors with the capability to detect, diagnose and treat blinding retinal diseases more successfully.

Developed in conjunction with five universities and an industrial partner, the instrument – known as the Micro Electro Mechanical System (MEMS)-based Adaptive Optics Scanning Laser Ophthalmoscope (MAOSLO) – will enable clinicians to image and measure microscopic structures of the living eye, such as individual photoreceptors and ganglion cells.

Clinical trials, which have been under way for nearly a year, show that the instrument’s resolution and three-dimensional sectioning capabilities represent an important breakthrough in visualizing the retina.

The MAOSLO can measure and automatically correct aberrations in the eye in real-time; provide non-invasive, in vivo images of the retina at the cellular level; and enable optical sectioning of different cellular layers in the retina, among other tasks.

MAOSLO’s new capabilities are made possible by using the latest advances in adaptive optics and MEMS technology. This instrument uses the same adaptive optics principles employed in the world’s largest telescopes to provide clear images of distant astronomical objects.
Dr. Roorda MAOSLO can image tiny sections of the retina to show individual cellular layers.
Image: LLNL  
The instrument’s core design was developed by LLNL researchers, along with researchers from the optometry schools at UC Berkeley and Indiana University, and the University of Rochester’s Center for Visual Science. Initial testing was done at the UC Davis Medical Center, and clinical operations are under way at the University of Southern California’s Doheny Eye Institute. Boston Micromachines Corp. developed and supplied the key MEMS technology for the MAOSLO.

Four further R&D 100 awards went to LLNL scientists, including one for a breakthrough in continuous phase plate optics. These optics, developed in conjunction with Zygo Corp. of Middlefield, Conn. and QED Technologies of Rochester, N.Y., are a vital part of the optics chain for kilojoule- and megajoule-class laser systems like the National Ignition Facility, France’s Megajoule Laser, and the Omega laser at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics.

Composed of fused silica, continuous phase plate optics are about 17 inches high and 17 inches wide, and about 3/8 of an inch thick. The surface of the optics is imprinted with a computer designed topographical structure that resembles hills and valleys. The process is designed to polish this structure into the optic surface to within 30 nanometers – or about one-millionth of an inch – of design specifications.

These large-aperture ultra-precision diffractive optics make it possible to adjust and fine-tune a laser beam to a prescribed size and shape while maintaining the coherent properties of the laser light.

“These optics allow the light coupling to an inertial confinement fusion target to be manipulated in a manner that results in uniform heating and generation of X-rays in the hohlraum surrounding the fuel, thereby providing the necessary pressures and temperatures to initiate fusion,” said LLNL chemist Joe Menapace.

Continuous phase plate optics are produced using an advanced optical finishing process – called magnetorheological finishing – that combines deterministic polishing techniques, interferometry, precision equipment and computer control.
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