High-speed optical coherence tomography by circular interferometric ranging


Existing three-dimensional optical imaging methods excel in controlled environments, but are difficult to deploy over large, irregular and dynamic fields. This means that they can be ill-suited for use in areas such as material inspection and medicine. To better address these applications, we developed methods in optical coherence tomography to efficiently interrogate sparse scattering fields, that is, those in which most locations (voxels) do not generate meaningful signal. Frequency comb sources are used to superimpose reflected signals from equispaced locations through optical subsampling. This results in circular ranging, and reduces the number of measurements required to interrogate large volumetric fields. As a result, signal acquisition barriers that have limited speed and field in optical coherence tomography are avoided. With a new ultrafast, time-stretched frequency comb laser design operating with 7.6 MHz to 18.9 MHz repetition rates, we achieved imaging of multi-cm3 fields at up to 7.5 volumes per second.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Frequency comb circular ranging.
Fig. 2: A time-stretched frequency comb laser based on stretched-pulse mode-locking (SPML).
Fig. 3: Compressed optical coherence tomography system.
Fig. 4: Rapid volumetric imaging of porcine colonic mucosa.
Fig. 5: Rapid volumetric imaging of a surgically exposed rat sciatic nerve with birefringence contrast.


  1. 1.

    Pawley, J. B. Handbook of Biological Confocal Microscopy. (Springer Science+Business Media, New York, 20–42, 2006.

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Zipfel, W. R., Williams, R. M. & Webb, W. W. Nonlinear magic: multiphoton microscopy in biosciences. Nat. Biotechnol. 21, 1369–1377 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Huang, D. et al. Optical coherence tomography. Science 254, 1178–1181 (1991).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Drexler, W. et al. Optical coherence tomography today: speed, contrast, and multimodality. J. Biomed. Opt. 7, 071412 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Xu, J. et al. High-performance multi-megahertz optical coherence tomography based on amplified optical time-stretch. Biomed. Opt. Express 6, 1340–1350 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Wang, Z. et al. Cubic meter volume optical coherence tomography. Optica 3, 1496–1503 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Wieser, W. et al. High definition live 3D-OCT in vivo: design and evaluation of a 4D OCT engine with 1 GVoxel/s. Biomed. Opt. Express 5, 2963–2977 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Wieser, W., Biedermann, B. R., Klein, T., Eigenwillig, C. M. & Huber, R. Multi-megahertz OCT: high quality 3D imaging at 20 million A-scans and 4.5 GVoxels per second. Opt. Express 18, 14685–14704 (2010).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Song, S., Xu, J. & Wang, R. K. Long-range and wide field of view optical coherence tomography for in vivo 3D imaging of large volume object based on akinetic programmable swept source. Biomed. Opt. Express 7, 4734–4748 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Moon, S. & Kim, D. Y. Ultra-high-speed optical coherence tomography with a stretched pulse supercontinuum source. Opt. Express 14, 11575–11584 (2006).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Goda, K. et al. High-throughput optical coherence tomography at 800 nm. Opt. Express 20, 19612–19617 (2012).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Siddiqui, M. & Vakoc, B. J. Optical-domain subsampling for data efficient depth ranging in Fourier-domain optical coherence tomography. Opt. Express 20, 17938–17951 (2012).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Tozburun, S., Siddiqui, M. & Vakoc, B. J. A rapid, dispersion-based wavelength-stepped and wavelength-swept laser for optical coherence tomography. Opt. Express 22, 3414–3424 (2014).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Youngquist, R. C., Carr, S. & Davies, D. E. N. Optical coherence-domain reflectometry: a new optical evaluation technique. Opt. Lett. 12, 158–160 (1987).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Lexer, F., Hitzenberger, C. K., Fercher, A. F. & Kulhavy, M. Wavelength-tuning interferometry of intraocular distance. Appl. Opt. 36, 6548–6553 (1997).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Tamura, K., Ippen, E. P., Haus, H. A. & Nelson, L. E. 77-fs pulse generation from a stretched-pulse mode-locked all-fiber ring laser. Opt. Lett. 18, 1080–1082 (1993).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Haus, H. A., Tamura, K., Nelson, L. E. & Ippen, E. P. Stretched-pulse additive pulse mode-locking in fiber ring laser: theory and experiment. IEEE J. Quantum Electron. 31, 591–598 (1995).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Lee, S., Kim, K. & Delfyett, P. J. eXtreme chirped pulse amplification-beyond the fundamental energy storage limit of semiconductor optical amplifiers. IEEE Photon-. Technol. Lett. 18, 799–801 (2006).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Siddiqui, M., Tozburun, S., Zhang, E. Z. & Vakoc, B. J. Compensation of spectral and RF errors in swept-source OCT for high extinction complex demodulation. Opt. Express 23, 5508–5520 (2015).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Kudo, S. et al. Colonoscopic diagnosis and management of nonpolypoid early colorectal cancer. World J. Surg. 24, 1081–1090 (2000).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    de Boer, J. F. & Milner, T. E. Review of polarization sensitive optical coherence tomography and Stokes vector determination. J. Biomed. Opt. 7, 359–371 (2002).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Villiger, M. et al. Spectral binning for mitigation of polarization mode dispersion artifacts in catheter-based optical frequency domain imaging. Opt. Express 21, 16353–16369 (2013).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Islam, M. S. et al. Extracting structural features of rat sciatic nerve using polarization-sensitive spectral domain optical coherence tomography. J. Biomed. Opt. 17, 056012 (2012).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Henry, F. P. et al. In vivo optical microscopy of peripheral nerve myelination with polarization sensitive optical coherence tomography. J. Biomed. Opt. 20, 046002 (2015).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Kitajima, K. et al. Visualization of periprostatic nerve fibers before and after radical prostatectomy using diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging with tractography. Clin. Imaging 38, 302–306 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Yun, S. E. et al. Comprehensive volumetric optical microscopy in vivo. Nat. Med. 12, 1429–1433 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Blatter, C., Meijer, E. F. J., Padera, T. P. & Vakoc, B. J. Simultaneous measurements of lymphatic vessel contraction, flow and valve dynamics in multiple lymphangions using optical coherence tomography. J. Biophotonics e201700017 (2017)..

  28. 28.

    Utku, B., Qin, W., Qi, X., Kalkan, G. & Wang, R. K. OCT-based label-free in vivo lymphangiography within human skin and areola. Sci. Rep. 6, 1–8 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Su, R. et al. Perspectives of mid-infrared optical coherence tomography for inspection and micrometrology of industrial ceramics. Opt. Express 22, 15804–15819 (2014).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Rong, S. et al. Optical coherence tomography for quality assessment of embedded microchannels in alumina ceramic. Opt. Express 20, 4603–4618 (2012).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Yuan, W., Kut, C., Liang, W. & Li, X. Robust and fast characterization of OCT-based optical attenuation using a novel frequency-domain algorithm for brain cancer detection. Sci. Rep. 7, 1–8 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Vermeer, K. A., Mo, J., Weda, J. J. A., Lemij, H. G. & de Boer, J. F. Depth-resolved model-based reconstruction of attenuation coefficients in optical coherence tomography. Biomed. Opt. Express 5, 322–337 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Fleming, C. P., Eckert, J., Halpern, E. F., Gardecki, J. A. & Tearney, G. J. Depth resolved detection of lipid using spectroscopic optical coherence tomography. Biomed. Opt. Express 4, 1269–1284 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Leitgeb, R. et al. Spectral measurement of absorption by spectroscopic frequency-domain optical coherence tomography. Opt. Lett. 25, 820–822 (2000).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Lorenser, D., Singe, C. C., Curatolo, A. & Sampson, D. D. Energy-efficient low-Fresnel-number Bessel beams and their application in optical coherence tomography. Opt. Lett. 39, 548–551 (2014).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Lee, K. S. & Rolland, J. P. Bessel beam spectral-domain high-resolution optical coherence tomography with micro-optic axicon providing extended focusing range. Opt. Lett. 33, 1696–1698 (2008).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Liao, W. et al. Endoscopic optical coherence tomography with a focus-adjustable probe. Opt. Lett. 42, 4040–4043 (2017).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This research was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants R01CA163528, P41EB015903 and DOD/AFOSR FA9550-11-1-0331, Harvard Medical School Bullock Post-Doctoral Fellowship, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships Program (11-031). Additional financial support provided by Alcon. The authors thank I. Chico-Calero for performing animal surgeries and M. Villiger for providing the spectral binning PS-OCT base code.

Author information




M.S. built the system, planned and executed experiments, performed image processing, and prepared the manuscript. A.S.N. contributed to polarization-sensitive signal processing. S.T. contributed to building the system. N.L. executed experiments and contributed to image processing. C.B. was involved in developing the system software. B.J.V. obtained support, managed the project and participated in manuscript preparation.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Benjamin J. Vakoc.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors are inventors on intellectual property owned by the Massachusetts General Hospital.

Additional information

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary methods and results including detailed captions for each Supplementary Video.


Supplementary Video 1

A fly-through in the en face orientation from a three-dimensional dataset. This fly-through shows the superposition of multiple depth/delay planes in each measured depth/delay.

Supplementary Video 2

A wide-field video acquisition of ex vivo porcine colon.

Supplementary Video 3

A wide-field video acquisition of exposed rat sciatic nerve using structural and polarization-sensitive contrast.

Supplementary Video 4

A video acquired during dynamic manipulation of the sciatic nerve highlights applications in intraoperative guidance.

Supplementary Video 5

A fly-through of the three-dimensional dataset used to generate a single frame within Supplementary Video 4.

Supplementary Video 6

A video acquisition highlighting quantitative changes in imaged birefringence of an ex vivo mouse sciatic nerve in response to a crush injury.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Siddiqui, M., Nam, A.S., Tozburun, S. et al. High-speed optical coherence tomography by circular interferometric ranging. Nature Photon 12, 111–116 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41566-017-0088-x

Download citation

Further reading


Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing