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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Technology Note/Solar Surgery

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth’s Cynthia Graber reports on new research to use sunlight for surgery.


CURWOOD: Just ahead, ecology and the election for the U.S. Senate seat for Minnesota. First, this Environmental Technology Note from Cynthia Graber.


GRABER: Laser surgery is often the best way to treat small tumors. It’s relatively non-invasive and effective. The problem is, the equipment needed for the procedure costs about $100,000, and many hospitals simply can’t afford it.

So, Dr. Jeff Gordon, an Israeli researcher with a background in optics and solar power, figured he could capture sunlight for the same use. He developed a device that concentrates the sun’s power up to 10,000 times its normal level using small focusing mirrors and found that the sunlight beam mimicked the power of lasers. Tests showed the beam could burn a spherical area inside tissue. The team expects to begin testing the device on lab rats by the end of the year.

There are other applications of Gordon’s research. The U.S. Department of Defense is funding a partnership between the Israeli institution and Drexel University to produce electricity from the concentrated solar rays. Of course, this technology is only useful in sunny regions of the world. But there are about 250 days of clear sunshine a year in areas such as the Middle East, north Africa, parts of the southwestern U.S., and parts of Asia and South America, all of which can benefit from sunbeam surgery.

That’s this week’s Technology Note. I’m Cynthia Graber.

CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living On Earth.

[MUSIC: Art Pepper "I Can’t Believe You’re in Love with Me" (Contemporary Records, 1960)]



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