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Truncated-correlation photothermal coherence tomography for deep subsurface analysis


Photothermal diffusion-wave imaging is a promising technique for the analysis of a range of media. However, traditional diffusion-wave techniques are limited by the physics of parabolic diffusion and can only produce depth-integrated planar images. Here, we report a depth-resolved photothermal imaging modality, henceforth termed truncated-correlation photothermal coherence tomography (TC-PCT). This enables three-dimensional visualization of subsurface features, which is not possible with known optical or photothermal imaging techniques. Examples include imaging of solids with intricate subsurface structures and discontinuities, such as holes in steel, burn depth profiles in tissues, and the structure of bone. It is compatible with regulations concerning maximum permissible exposure and is the photothermal analogue of optical coherence tomography. Axial and lateral resolutions in bone are measured to be 25 and 100 µm, respectively, with a depth range of 3.2 mm (approximately four thermal diffusion lengths).

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Figure 1: Principle of TC-PCT.
Figure 2: Simulation results.
Figure 3: Proof of concept.
Figure 4: Opaque material tomography.
Figure 5: Application of TC-PCT to burn-depth analysis.

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A.M. acknowledges a Fellowship award from the Canada Council Killam Research Fellowships Program, which made this research possible. A.M. and S.K. further acknowledge the support of the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation (MRI) for the 2007 (inaugural) Discovery Award in Science and Engineering to A.M.; the Canada Research Chairs Programs; the Federal and Provincial Governments for a CFI-ORF award; and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada for a Discovery and a Strategic Grant. The authors thank Xueding Wang, Department of Radiology, University of Michigan, for recording the PAM of a few rib bone samples.

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Authors and Affiliations



S.K. conceived the idea, formulated the theory and conducted simulations, developed one pulsed laser unit and a few pulse processing circuits, assembled/developed the instrumental hardware and Labview programs for chirp generation, automation and tomography, prepared the bone and soft tissue samples, carried out the experiments and interpreted results. A.M. provided the imaging instrumentation framework, conceived the idea of thermal coherence tomography and pulsed chirped photothermal radar, co-developed with S.K. the concept of the pulsed chirp photothermal radar (precursors of TC-PCT) and provided overall supervision. S.K. wrote the paper, with assistive revisions and inputs from A.M.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Sreekumar Kaiplavil or Andreas Mandelis.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Kaiplavil, S., Mandelis, A. Truncated-correlation photothermal coherence tomography for deep subsurface analysis. Nature Photon 8, 635–642 (2014).

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