African Physics Newsletter

Novel applications of Laser Induced Fluorescence Spectroscopy

Figure 1: (a-b) Excerpts of results with LIF technique on water and malaria parasite density. Research group member of LAFOC (c) operating the Fluorosensor device (d) demonstrating the LIF technique to high school students and (e) conducting measurement on fruit samples.

Scientists from the LAFOC, in Ghana, use a laser induced fluorescence spectroscopic technique for analysis in many fields.

The Laser and Fibre Optics Centre (LAFOC) applies light-based technologies for research and development in Ghana and Africa. Laser sources were introduced to the Centre in the early 1990’s for which research was tailored towards metrology.

Fluorescence spectroscopy techniques emerged towards the early 2000’s. Today Laser-induced Fluorescence (LIF) spectroscopic technique has been used in investigating samples for their constituents.

Sensitive and selective

This technique is very sensitive and highly selective. It is also rapid, non-invasive, and relatively in-expensive compared to other spectroscopic techniques. LIF spectroscopy has been used for several impactful studies of which some have led to dissertations, publications, some unique findings, and other benefits.

LAFOC is privileged to house a Fluoresensor: a simple portable system which was designed and built by Prof. Benjamin Anderson as part of his MPhil thesis in 2003, with Prof. P. K. Buah-Bassuah his supervisor through a collaboration with the International Science Programme (ISP) and Uppsala University, Sweden.

Innovative applications of the technique

The ISP and Office of External Activities (OEA) of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) have over the years provided instrumentation and optical components used in setting up different configurations for LIF spectral or imaging measurements on materials of scientific interest.

We hereby highlight on some LIFS techniques and advances made at the Centre within the last two decades and share some innovative applications of the technique by researchers at the Centre in focusing in the areas of agriculture, health, and environment.

Agriculture and health

For agricultural purposes, LIF spectroscopy has been used in ways that will help increase productivity in the sector and ensure food security. Reducing the time for identifying the gender of dioecious plant(s); cost effective means to identify cowpea varieties with better yield; rapid means to assess mosaic disease severity in Manihot esculenta (cassava) to reduce losses are such examples.

In the field of health, the Centre is working to effectively reduce the global burden of malaria using the fluorescence technique. Opoku-Ansah et al. used the technique for Plasmodium falciparum parasite density estimation as an alternative to conventional microscopy method, which is very laborious and requires expertise. Amuah et al. also used LIFS in combination with multivariate analysis to classify antimalarial herbal plants to help in the determination of herbal plants with anti-malaria potentials and geographical origin classification.

Environmental applications

Osei-Wusu Adueming and his team also employed the LIF technique in ocular research to discriminate cataractous lenses from healthy lenses. Water quality has also been investigated by Sefa-Ntiri and others as an environmental application of the technique at the Centre. The Centre is currently using the technique on medicinal plants, honey, some fruit juices, etc.

LAFOC’s work with LIF over the past two decades can be considered formational, helping to obtain needed resources and personnel development. The Centre welcomes scientific collaboration and exchanges with both local and international research institutions and industries to enhance LIFS techniques and other areas of technical interest.

Andrew A. Huzortey, Jojo M. Eghan, Patrick Mensah-Amoah, Charles L. Y. Amuah, Peter Osei – Wusu Adueming, Shemmira Yunus, Samuel S. Sackey & Benjamin Anderson

This article has first been published by the African Physics Newsletter - ©American Physical Society, 2021

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