(OSA.org) Researchers have used a technology borrowed from quantum optics to perform optical coherence tomography (OCT) with much lower light powers than previously possible. Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is used in medical diagnostics.
Researchers in New Zealand and Poland have demonstrated OCT imaging that requires a tiny fraction of the light power of existing systems by pulling a detection scheme out of the quantum-optics toolbox.
Clinicians often rely on OCT systems, which illuminate subjects with a near-infrared semiconductor light source, to provide high-resolution cross-sectional images of tissue. National and international standards organizations place upper bounds on the emitted power of these devices, especially when used on highly sensitive body parts such as the retina. Sometimes the “photon budget” becomes so tight that users cannot collect enough backscattered light from tissues to produce a clear image.
A group led by physicist Sylwia Kolenderska of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, realized that if the detectors in OCT clinical systems could collect more photons, the resulting images would gain more resolution. The researchers drew from the principle of dispersive Fourier transformation. Scientists already use the technique in various quantum-optics applications and even in some OCT systems that use a supercontinuum light source.
Kolenderska and one of her co-authors, University of Auckland physicist and OSA member Frédérique Vanholsbeeck, are affiliated with New Zealand’s Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies. The third team member, Piotr Kolenderski, is at Nicholaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Poland.