Mini OCT soon a reality

Large and bulky OCT scanning systems could in a few years be inexpensive, with parts mere millimetres in size

Eye looks through a magnifying glass

Engineers envision that optical coherence tomography (OCT) machines may soon be compact and low cost, while still providing clinicians the precision detail they require.

This reality has moved a step closer with developments by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Acacia Communications, outlined in a paper published in the journal Optica.

The team was able to build a swept-source OCT system with the components, including the laser, combiner and receiver, each measuring “only a few millimetres across,” MIT electrical engineer, Professor James Fujimoto, told OT.

He added: “[This work] offers tremendous promise for the future of OCT in allowing for compact, low-cost, high-performance systems.”

As the OCT components can be built on “tiny” silicon circuits, they can therefore be manufactured in bulk relatively cheaply, Professor Fujimoto highlighted.

His fellow researcher and Acacia Communications telecommunications specialist, Dr Chris Doerr, explained that the low cost and small size “would allow more people all over the world to benefit from OCT, and would open up new applications.”

He continued: “One can realistically expect full OCT systems on a single [circuit] chip within the next five years.”

The researchers have also developed an OCT system that is capable of scanning depths of one metre, in a partnership with Thorlabs Inc and Praevium Research, compared to the millimetres or centimetres that today’s systems can scan.

Image credit: Okko Pyykko