COSMA: Coherent Optics Sensors for Medical Application is an European Marie Curie Project running from 2012 to March 2016, with the participation of 10 teams from Armenia, Bulgaria, India, Israel, Italy, Poland, Russia, UK, USA. The main objective was to focus theoretical and experimental research on biomagnetism phenomena, with the specific aim to develop all-optical sensors dedicated to their detection and suitable for applications in clinical diagnostics. The paper presents some of the most recent results obtained during the exchange visits of the involved scientists, after an introduction about the phenomenon which is the pillar of this kind of research and of many other new fields in laser spectroscopy, atomic physics, and quantum optics: the dark resonance.
We describe our research programme on the use of atomic magnetometers to detect conductive objects via electromagnetic induction. The extreme sensitivity of atomic magnetometers at low frequencies, up to seven orders of magnitude higher than a coil-based system, permits deep penetration through different media and barriers, and in various operative environments. This eliminates the limitations usually associated with electromagnetic detection.
We report on the use of radio-frequency optical atomic magnetometers for magnetic induction tomography measurements. We demonstrate the imaging of dummy targets of varying conductivities placed in the proximity of the sensor, in an unshielded environment at room-temperature and without background subtraction. The images produced by the system accurately reproduce the characteristics of the actual objects. Furthermore, we perform ﬁnite element simulations in order to assess the potential for measuring low-conductivity biological tissues with our system. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of an instrument based on optical atomic magnetometers for magnetic induction tomography imaging of biological samples, in particular for mapping anomalous conductivity in the heart.
We propose a new approach, based on optical atomic magnetometers and magnetic induction tomography (MIT), for remote and non-invasive detection of conductive targets. Atomic magnetometers overcome the main limitations of conventional MIT instrumentation, in particular their poor low-frequency sensitivity, their large size and their limited scalability. Moreover, atomic magnetometers have been proven to reach extremely high sensitivities, with an improvement of up to 7 orders of magnitude in the 50 MHz to DC band, with respect to a standard pick-up coil of the same size. In the present scheme, an oscillating magnetic field induces eddy currents in a conductive target and laser-pumped atomic magnetometers, either stand-alone or in an array, detect the response of the objects. A phase-sensitive detection scheme rejects the background, allowing remote detection of the secondary field and, thus, mapping of objects, hidden in cargos, underwater or underground. The potential for extreme sensitivity, miniaturization, dynamic range and array operation paves the way to a new generation of non-invasive, active detectors for surveillance, as well as for real-time cargo screening.