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Abs. 283, 205th Meeting, © 2004 The Electrochemical Society, Inc.

Applications of Long-Wavelength Sources and Detectors for Medical Monitoring Jonathon T. Olesberg Optical Science and Technology Center and the Department of Chemistry University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA Much of the work in noninvasive sensing has utilized the shorter wavelength regions (0.8-1.8 µm wavelength) because of the greater penetration depth of water and the abundance of well-developed source and detector technology. However, the optical interaction strength with glucose is very weak in these ranges. The field of biochemical sensing will be greatly aided by advances in device technology in the 2.0-2.5 µm and 3-10 µm wavelength ranges. The requirements for biomolecule sensing in aqueous environments are very different from gas sensing, where absorption lines are narrow. In an aqueous environment, absorption features are broad and highly overlapped. Fortunately, though, the exact structure of the absorption bands depends on the chemical environment surrounding the active bonds. Because of this, the absorption spectrum of each chemical species is unique. But absorption measurements must be made at several wavelengths in order to provide enough degrees of freedom to identify glucose in the presence of other interfering compounds. Much of the present non-invasive chemical sensing research is performed using broad-band optical sources (e.g., tungsten lamps or glow-bars) and FTIR spectrometers. Spectral quality is typically limited by detector noise due to the small optical powers provided by broad-band sources. In addition, tissue throughput is small due to water absorption and tissue scattering: peak transmission in the 2.0-2.5 µm wavelength range is significantly less than 1% per millimeter of tissue. Tunable laser sources or arrays of laser diodes can eliminate the low signal limitation, even with modest powers (e.g., 10 mW). Unlike gas sensing applications, narrow linewidth is not important, but wavelength stability (for lasers in an array) or wavelength reproducibility (for a tunable system) is critical. Successful noninvasive measurements will likely require very large (>105) signal-to-noise-ratios, so wavelength deviations must be very small.

There are several exciting possible applications of optical sensing for medical monitoring. Optical monitoring of body chemistry offers several advantages over conventional chemical techniques. Long-wavelength semiconductor source and detector technology will likely play a key role in making these applications possible and practical. There are several biochemicals for which medical monitoring would be useful, including urea, lactate, cholesterol, and creatinine. The best-known potential application of non-invasive optical monitoring, however, is the measurement of blood glucose for individuals with diabetes. Although the importance of frequent blood glucose monitoring is clear, and standard reagent-based technology for measuring blood glucose is well developed, most individuals with diabetes do not monitor their blood glucose values nearly as often as they should. The primary reasons given for inadequate testing are the pain of drawing a sample of blood and the cost of the reagent-carrying test strip. Optical measurements can do away with both of these factors, allowing the measurement to be performed non-invasively and reagentlessly. Although development of optical blood glucose sensors has been pursued aggressively for several years, there are still no commercially available instruments. This is due to a combination of factors, including an extremely high signal-to-noise requirement and the difficulty of properly interpreting spectral absorption information. The factors required for successful noninvasive biochemical monitoring, especially as they relate to the potential impact of the development of semiconductor source and detector technology in the 2.0-10 µm wavelength range, will be discussed. Biomolecule absorption in the infrared is due to interaction of the optical field with vibrational modes of the molecule. In this regard, infrared optical sensing is much more difficult than the measurement of hemoglobin oxygenation in pulse oxymetry, which utilizes electronic transitions in the hemoglobin molecule. The most intense vibrational interactions are due to bonds involving hydrogen atoms, such as, O-H, C-H, and N-H bonds. Fundamental vibrational modes exist in the 4-10 µm wavelength range. Weaker nonlinear combinations of fundamental modes exist in the 2.0-2.5 µm wavelength range, and yet weaker overtones exist in the 1.5-1.8 µm and 0.8-1.2 µm ranges. Any measurement in a biological material must deal with the presence of water. Water has significant absorption throughout the long-wavelength infrared, requiring the selection of wavelength bands lying in water absorption windows. The dominant water transmission windows in the long-wavelength infrared occur between 2.0-2.5 µm, 3.3-5.9 µm, and 6.2-11 µm.