National Physical Laboratory

Vision without incision

NPL can get right under your skin to see what is going on, using nothing more than a beam of infrared light to probe the subsurface structure of human skin.

This technology, known as Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), can be used to image to a depth of three millimetres beneath the skin. NPL's bio-photonics experts plan to use these images to quantify the optical properties of healthy and diseased tissue. This links medical assessment with physical measurement, known as 'Traceable Diagnostics'.

Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT)


Using OCT it could be possible to 'measure' the healthiness of tissue without having to cut away a tissue sample. Ultimately this work could lead the way towards automated diagnosis and a better understanding of the physics of disease.

Research being carried out at NPL aims to address the fundamental measurement problem of how to measure refractive index variations in living tissue and quantitatively relate this and other optical properties to tissue health. OCT with its high dynamic range and high speed will be important for the understanding of disease and development of new diagnostic equipment.

Find out more about NPL's research in Optical Radiation & Photonics

Last Updated: 26 Feb 2013
Created: 15 Oct 2010