Automatic Interferometric Alignment of a Free-Space Optical Coherence Tomography System
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Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is a relatively new interferometric technology that allows for high-resolution and non-destructive tomographic imaging. One of its primary current uses is for in vivo and ex vivo examination of medical samples. It is used for non-destructive examination of ocular disease, dermatological examination, blood vessel imaging, and many other applications. Some primary advantages of OCT imaging include rapid imaging of biological tissue with minimal sample preparation, 3D high-resolution imaging with depth penetrations of several millimeters, and the capability to obtain results in real time, allowing for fast and minimally invasive identification of many diseases. Current commercial OCT systems rely heavily on optical fiber-based designs. They depend on the robustness of the fiber to maintain system performance in variable environmental conditions but sacrifice the performance and flexibility of free-space optical designs. We discuss the design and implementation of a free-space OCT interferometer that can automatically maintain its alignment, allowing for the use of a free-space optical design outside of tightly controlled laboratory environments. In addition, we describe how similar enhancements can be made to other optical interferometric systems. By extending these techniques, we can provide similar improvements to many related fields, such as interferometric metrology and Fourier Transform Spectroscopy. Improvements in these technologies can help bring powerful interferometric tools to a wider audience.