Stable multi-megahertz circular-ranging optical coherence tomography at 1.3 µm

Biomed Opt Express. 2019 Dec 9;11(1):174-185. doi: 10.1364/BOE.11.000174. eCollection 2020 Jan 1.

Abstract

In Fourier-domain optical coherence tomography (OCT), the finite bandwidth of the acquisition electronics constrains the depth range and speed of the system. Circular-ranging (CR) OCT methods use optical-domain compression to surpass this limit. However, the CR-OCT system architectures of prior reports were limited by poor stability and were confined to the 1.55 µm wavelength range. In this work, we describe a novel CR-OCT architecture that is free from these limitations. To ensure stable operation, temperature sensitive optical modules within the system were replaced; the kilometer-length fiber spools used in the stretched-pulse mode-locked (SPML) laser was eliminated in favor of a single 10 meter, continuously chirped fiber Bragg grating, and the interferometer's passive optical quadrature demodulation circuit was replaced by an active technique using a lithium niobate phase modulator. For improved imaging penetration in biological tissues, the system operating wavelength was shifted to a center wavelength of 1.29 µm by leveraging the wavelength flexibility intrinsic to CFBG-based dispersive fibers. These improvements were achieved while maintaining a broad (100 nm) optical bandwidth, a long 4 cm imaging range, and a high 7.6 MHz A-line rate. By enhancing stability, simplifying overall system design, and operating at 1.3 µm, this CR-OCT architecture will allow a broader exploration of CR-OCT in both medical and non-medical applications.