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Hitachi shrinks size and cost of medical lasers

A new laser light source from the massive Japanese corporation promises a new generation of easy-to-use, economical laser-based medical diagnostic tools.

Hitachi, the global technology company, has developed a small, low-cost light source for use in laser-based medical diagnosis equipment.

According to a Nikkei.Net article, the lasers will produce light in the 700-730nm wavelength range, have a power output of 100 mW, operate in temperature ranges up to 80°C and cost less than one hundredth of the price of existing lasers.

The new laser measures less than 10mm per side in its packaged form, compared with solid-state lasers based on crystals that measure tens of centimeters per side.

A spokesperson for Hitachi told compoundsemiconductor.net, “The laser structures are similar to the laser diodes for Blu-ray disc or HD-DVD players,” adding that instead of InGaN/AlGaN, the medical lasers use an InGaAsP emitting layer.

Hitachi also said that it expects to begin shipping 705nm lasers to vendors of biomedical measurement or imaging systems, such as laser microscopes and laser endoscopes, before the end of 2007.

Lasers offer a non-invasive method of diagnosis, for example in the detection of tumors, but must have a power output of at least 30 mW to be useful.

Nikkei.Net says that this kind of power level has previously only been attainable with large solid state lasers that cost over $40,000 and require cooling.

The same article quotes Hitachi as saying that its new lasers will cost around $400 initially, and could drop to the $1 level if demand were high enough for the product to enter mass production.

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