Advantage of the Mark-III FEL for biophysical research and biomedical applications.
Although 6.45 micro m is not the strongest absorption band of biological tissues in the mid-infrared, a Mark-III free-electron laser (FEL) tuned to this wavelength can efficiently ablate tissue while minimizing collateral damage. A model has previously been presented that explains this wavelength dependence as a competition between two dynamic processes--explosive vaporization of saline and denaturation of structural proteins. Here it is shown that this model predicts a 'sweet-spot' for each wavelength, i.e. a region of parameter space (incident intensity and pulse width) in which explosive vaporization is preceded by substantial protein denaturation. This sweet-spot is much larger for wavelengths where protein is the dominant chromophore. At other wavelengths, collateral damage may be minimized within the sweet-spot, but the maximum intensities and pulse widths in these regions are insufficient to remove tissue at surgically relevant rates.
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