NIST logo
Bookmark and Share

Optical Medical Imaging


The Optical Medical Imaging program was established to advance the application of optical imaging in surgical, clinical, and medical practices. Our goal is develop standards and measurement quality assurance, to characterize and calibrate optical medical imaging technology, and improve surgical and clinical lighting.


Optical medical imaging promises to enhance and complement conventional medical imaging modalities that include MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), CT (Computed Tomography), and PET-CT (Positron Emission Tomography – Computed Tomography), which are too expensive for routine applications and too complex for surgical applications. Unlike radiological and x-ray imaging, optical imaging does not expose patients to harmful ionizing radiation and can provide continuous, direct observation throughout protracted surgical procedures, and long-term patient monitoring for assessing treatment efficacy and progress.

This research program targets hyperspectral optical medical imaging because its high spatial and spectral resolution offers the greatest opportunity to detect and quantify tissue status in the early stages of disease progression. Hyperspectral imaging monitors reflected or emitted infrared and optical radiation from tissue much like a camera used in photography, except that it expands the spectral fidelity from the three-component RGB color palette to hundreds of wavelengths. It is applicable to external clinical examinations, including ophthalmologic exams as well as internal (open, endoscopic, and laparoscopic) procedures and surgeries.


  • Advance SI-traceable calibration and characterization technology and standards to assess and improve instrument performance through the use of advanced optical tools, i.e. the hyperspectral image projector (HIP);
  • Capture standard, well-calibrated hyperspectral images of normal and diseased tissues to aid the development of algorithms for quantifying disease and tissue status involving biomarkers;
  • Enhance surgical and clinical lighting to improve hyperspectral imaging and human-vision contrast and fidelity; and
  • Provide the technical foundation to accelerate the certification of optical medical imaging applications by the FDA.

Lead Organizational Unit:



David Allen 
Jeeseong Hwang
Maritoni Litorja
Antonio Possolo, ITL
Eric Shirley


Quantum Electronics and Photonics Division
Robert Hickernell, Chief

Molecular and Biomolecular Project
Kimberly Briggman, Leader

Optical Medical Imaging
Jeeseong Hwang
303-497-6588 Telephone

General Information:
325 Broadway MS815.01
Boulder, CO 80305
303-497-7287 Telephone