Coherent Microscopy and Optical Coherence Tomography for Biomedical Applications

  • Jeremy M. Coupland
  • Justin A. T. Halls
Part of the Bioanalysis book series (BIOANALYSIS, volume 2)


In recent years the traditional, incoherent methods of optical microscopy have been complemented by coherent imaging methods such as digital holographic microscopy and optical coherence tomography. These methods have the ability to image through distorting media, offer extended contrast enhancement modes such as polarization sensitive and Doppler imaging, and promise varying degrees of 3D imaging capability. Although these techniques might seem quite disparate both in configuration and application, they are similar in many important respects. As coherent, far-field techniques they derive information from the response of the object to a set of optical stimuli and use interferometric methods to record the phase and the amplitude of the elastically scattered field at a distant boundary. Hence, it is only the characteristics of the fields used to illuminate the object and the physical limitations imposed by the optical systems used to measure the response that differentiate the various techniques.

In this chapter, the capabilities of coherent microscopy and optical tomography are compared using linear systems theory. The techniques are characterized in terms of their 3D transfer functions in the frequency domain and their associated 3D point spread functions in the space domain. It is shown that digital holographic techniques that reconstruct images from a single, coherent recording of the scattered field only provide useful 3D information when used to investigate sparse objects such as cells or particles suspended in a transparent fluid. By synthesizing images from multiple recordings of the scattered field using different wavelengths and/or different illuminating wave fronts, the 3D imaging capability of far-field optical techniques is extended greatly. In these cases light scattered from different depths can be identified by means of the so-called “coherence gating” or “confocal gating” effects attributed to the source bandwidth and numerical aperture (NA), respectively. These are the methods of optical tomography.


Optical Coherence Tomography Point Spread Function Numerical Aperture Scattered Field Optical Coherence Tomography System 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Wolfson School of Mechanical and Manufacturing EngineeringLoughborough UniversityLeicestershireUK
  2. 2.Brunel Institute for BioengineeringBrunel UniversityMiddlesexUK

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