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Super Microscope featuring advanced Danish technology A laser developed in Denmark is the secret behind a completely new generation of scientific instruments from manufacturers including the microscope giant Leica Microsystems. It is well known that laser light can be used to examine the contents of a biological or chemical sample. It is simply a matter of adding a tracer to the sample and then using the laser to establish whether the tracer in question has attached itself to specific molecules in the sample. If so, it can be concluded that a given compound is present in the sample. However, next-generation instruments from leading manufacturers such as Leica Microsystems have the capacity to search for a large number of different compounds simultaneously. The instruments are already in great demand, both by doctors who have to make complex diagnoses, and by researchers all over the world. SuperK lasers The new type of instruments has been made possible by recently developed lasers manufactured by the Danish company NKT Photonics. The lasers are called ‘SuperK lasers’, where the K stands for ‘continuum’ (which is spelled with a K in Danish). In contrast to conventional lasers that deliver light at a specific wavelength, the SuperK laser delivers light at all wavelengths within a given interval—known as a ‘continuum’ in the trade. The first generation of SuperK lasers cover wavelengths from the ultraviolet to the visible and near infrared (400-2400 nm), and are therefore also known as ‘white light lasers’. In early 2008, Leica launched the first confocal microscopes (see the explanation in the box on the following page) featuring the new SuperK light source onto the market. Since then, a number of new and improved versions of the SuperK lasers have been developed. Involved in European cancer project In September 2012, NKT Photonics— in collaboration with DTU and Aarhus University—completed a project supported by The Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation (please see box on p. 34), in which it proved possible to develop SuperK lasers with longer wavelengths than the first generation. This opens the door to a range of new applications. For example, the new lasers can be used in instruments designed to reveal the volumes of different types of air pollutants in the atmosphere. They can also be used for medical purposes to analyse substances in the air exhaled by patients. DTU Photonics was a constant partner for the company throughout the process. Most recently, NKT Photonics and DTU have partnered in an EU project intended to develop the SuperK principle further to even >> 35 “NKT Photonics is actually an offshoot from research at DTU. So we see DTU Photonics as a natural partner.” Lasse Leick, Project Manager, NKT Photonics DTU in profile 2013


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