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January 16, 2009

"From military device to life-saving surgery tool."

December 24, 2008
By Anouk Lorie

LONDON, England -- A new tool that allows doctors to use laser surgery in complex operations has been hailed as a breakthrough in minimally invasive laser technology.

Originally designed as a military tool for the United States Department of Defense (DOD), the fiber-optic invention is revolutionizing the ways surgeons carry out brain surgeries.

The "Omni directional dielectric mirror" was created by Professor Yoel Fink, a then-29-year-old student in Material Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1995.

"I was asked to participate in a project funded by the DOD to create the perfect mirror," Fink told CNN.

"The perfect mirror reflects light from all angles and does not absorb any of it. It could have been used, for example, to reflect back enemy laser beams," he continued

DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a subsection of the DOD, specialize in technologies they believe are about 25 years away from being realized and try to make them happen in five years' time.

But they didn't have a long wait before they found their perfect mirror.

"To my own surprise, I found the answer during the very first meeting. I thought everyone would laugh at my suggestion, so I waited until the last two minutes to talk and after I did, the room just fell silent," Fink, a former commander in the Israeli army, told CNN.

He found that by taking two materials with different optical properties (one being a semi-conducting glass and one being a polymer) and stacking these two up in very tight and ultra thin layers, around 1 micron each (1/1000 of a millimeter), they create an omni-reflector.

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