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OCT technology

Develop the next generation of compact and robust scanners for bio applications such as OCT scanners with imec’s integrated photonics technology.

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is an imaging technology for medical diagnostics. By measuring the intensity and echo time delay of light that’s scattered by transparent or semi-transparent tissues, OCT can capture 3D images with a penetration depth of several millimeters and a resolution of a few micrometers.

Its fine resolution makes OCT a powerful technology for applications where other imaging techniques, such as sonography or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), fall short. Regularly used for retina imaging, it can discover early signs of glaucoma, macular degeneration, cysts, holes, and tears.

OCT is a simple, painless, and quick procedure. That makes the technology ideally suited for point-of-care diagnostics. Especially if the OCT device can be made compact and robust. This is where imec’s solid-state optical beamforming platform comes in.

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OCT technology based on integrated photonics

An OCT scan is generated by dividing the light from a broadband source into two arms:

  • a sample arm aimed at structures at various depths of the sample, for instance, the posterior pole of the eye
  • a reference arm which usually contains a mirror

The combination of reflected light from both arms results in an interference pattern that gives information about the sample.

The key elements of an OCT system are:

  • interferometer circuit
  • scanner
  • light source: broadband, wavelength-swept laser, ...
  • corresponding light detector: simple, spectroscopic, ...

Using integrated photonics, imec first constructed an OCT system in 2010:

OCT chip elements based on silicon photonics

OCT cross-sectional image (average of 100 B-scans) of a layered tissue phantom using silicon photonics-based OCT.

3D OCT technology

Standard conventional OCTs are based on a single-point 1D acquisition technique. To enable a more powerful 3D OCT, the technology needs to be complemented with a 2D scanning part.

For the development of such a 3D OCT, imec offers you different options:

  • micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS)
  • optical-phased-array scanners (OPA)

Whichever option you choose, imec’s expertise in integrated photonics guarantees you a compact, low-power, and reliable device.

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