Auckland Bioengineering Institute

Optical coherence tomography

OCT image of a fingernail.

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is an imaging technique, based on low-coherence interferometry. It enables non-invasive dynamic 1D, 2D, and 3D imaging of biological structures. Tomographic maps of internal tissue microstructures can be acquired to cellular resolutions up to several millimeters of penetration depths. As such, the technique has the potential to allow in-vivo biopsies to be performed in real time, providing immediate feedback on e.g. tumour recession, and removing the need for further surgery after a slower traditional biopsy analysis.

We have developed several state-of-the-art OCT imaging systems based on optical bulk components and all-fiber designs. The systems typically have a depth resolution of ~10 µm and lateral resolution of ~40 µm. The current focus is on the development of efficient all-fibre polarization-sensitive OCT devices, using swept frequency laser sources, to characterize the distribution of collagen within tissue samples.

These devices are being used to map the geometry of living samples of rat trabeculae subjected to thermomechanical testing in our microcalorimeter. They are also being used to track subsurface microstructural features of skin for in vivo deformation analysis using our 3D microrobot.

Project members

Funding partners

  • Lotteries Health
  • Skin NERF


  1. Lippok, N., Nielsen, P. M. F. and Vanholsbeeck, F. Improving the efficiency of optical coherence tomography by using the non-ideal behaviour of a polarising beam splitter. Optics Express 19, 7161-7175, doi:10.1364/OE.19.007161 (2011).
  2. Lippok, N., Coen, S., Leonhardt, R., Nielsen, P. and Vanholsbeeck, F. Instantaneous quadrature components or Jones vector retrieval using the Pancharatnam - Berry phase in frequency domain low-coherence interferometry. Optics Letters (2012) Accepted for publication.