We introduce a family of power-conserving fiber-optic interferometer designs for low-coherence reflectometry that use optical circulators, unbalanced couplers, and (or) balanced heterodyne detection. Simple design equations for optimization of the signal-to-noise ratio of the interferometers are expressed in terms of relevant signal and noise sources and measurable system parameters. We use the equations to evaluate the expected performance of the new configurations compared with that of the standard Michelson interferometer that is commonly used in optical coherence tomography (OCT) systems. The analysis indicates that improved sensitivity is expected for all the new interferometer designs, compared with the sensitivity of the standard OCT interferometer, under high-speed imaging conditions.
© 1999 Optical Society of America
(040.2840) Detectors : Heterodyne
(110.4280) Imaging systems : Noise in imaging systems
(110.4500) Imaging systems : Optical coherence tomography
(120.3180) Instrumentation, measurement, and metrology : Interferometry
Andrew M. Rollins and Joseph A. Izatt, "Optimal interferometer designs for optical coherence tomography," Opt. Lett. 24, 1484-1486 (1999)