IOP Project

Raman spectroscopy: Using a probe to identify tissue

Projectnumber: IPD067767
Contact: Dr. ir. G.J. Puppels
Phone: +31 (0)10 408 79 89

Since 2004 River Diagnostics in Rotterdam has been the first in the world to manufacture a Raman spectroscope for identifying (skin) tissue and cells in vivo. Raman spectroscopy is a non-destructive optical technique based on the scattering of monochromatic light by molecules (Raman dispersion). The possibility to distinguish is based on differences in energy levels, which a (laser) light source may cause to the vibrations and rotations of the atoms of a molecule. When interaction between a photon and a molecule takes place, a part of the photon’s energy may transfer to the molecule. This affects the way in which the atoms in the molecule move. If this phenomenon occurs, the energy of the photon is reduced by the amount of energy absorbed by the molecule. How much energy transfers depends on the molecule’s atomic composition. This makes Raman spectra molecule-specific. Measuring the energy difference between the incident and scattered photons identifies the molecules involved.


Gerwin Puppels PhD, CEO of River Diagnostics BV says: “Our product provides detailed information on the composition of the skin and answers questions such as: What amount and how much of a substance applied to the skin penetrates it? How quickly does this happen and how deep does the penetration go? Which metabolites develop in the process? Very interesting, but cost-technical only possible to do in a research environment.”


Puppels envisages a much larger scope for Raman spectroscopy: “Every doctor could walk around keeping a few Raman probes for in vivo analyses in his breast pocket. By using a Raman probe during surgery a specialist would be able to find out if tissue forms part of a tumour, or whether it is healthy tissue. And the pharmacist or chemist could do a skin analysis to enable him to advise the correct lotion or crème for his customers.”


To realise this vision it is necessary to drastically miniaturise the technology and to reduce the cost by at least a hundred times. This seems feasible, because developments in integrated optics, photonics and lasers are advancing at a lightning pace. In the project called “The Raman probe” these specialisation fields are combined with the Raman knowledge. “For a part completely new technology is needed, but in particular, cheap existing components have to be adapted and integrated. And the technology requires a design that could be mass-produced.”

The description of this project is available as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file:

Adobe Acrobat PDF file  SN PD 2 (88 KB)


Erasmus Medical Center
River Diagnostics BV
NRC Institute for Biodiagnostics (Canada)
University of Twente
Delft University of Technology
LioniX BV
2M Engineering