Laser Ablation Electro Spray Ionization can be used to analyze biological samples more gently than previous technologies.
A professor at George Washington University has been recognized for developing a new technology that could be appearing in labs and hospitals around the world, called Laser Ablation Electro Spray Ionization (LAESI). The Scientist magazine recognized professor Akon Vertes' technological innovation as one of the top 10 of 2011.
LAESI is used as a way to find out what's inside a biological sample. A sample is vaporized with an infrared laser, and then a burst of charged particles shoots it into a machine that uses light to identify what's inside.
"It could be useful for all sorts of things - it's one of these things where your imagination is the limit of what you want to do," explains Steven Wiley, a scientist with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and a judge for The Scientist's top ten list.
He says often when scientists try to use lasers to analyze things, they end up inadvertently destroying what they're looking for. But this method is gentler, and extremely specific. It's already being used to identify cancerous and virally infected cells.