Application of Microwave Photonics to Low Coherence Interferometry (LCI)
Jesús Benítez González
Low Coherence Interferometry (LCI) is an optical technique for distance measurements, able to reach the micron scale of resolution in the axial direction of the sample. Its physical principle is based on the generation of an interference pattern which, after processing, can reveal the structural information of the sample studied. Among all the LCI applications, the medical field arises as one of the most relevant, mainly due to the non-invasive nature of the technique. In this sense, the Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is one of the most recognizable applications, where the acquisition of 2D and 3D images by using LCI enables the analysis and diagnosis of different biological tissues. Among other fields of application of this technique, we can highlight sensing and the optical components characterization. Nevertheless, LCI systems also suffer from some limitations related to compactness and cost-effectiveness, mainly when it is applied to the medical field where more complex structures are required. Furthermore, it also exists a strong limitation related to the interference pattern mostly due to its acquisition in the optical domain, where it is highly sensitive to vibrations and temperature variations.
On this basis, the main objective of this Ph.D. is focused in the study of the LCI technique and its combination with the field of Microwave Photonics (MWP). The benefits that MWP can offer to LCI are numerous, among which we can highlight the analysis of the interference pattern in the electrical domain instead of in the optical domain, or the possibility to make use of a more mature technology as the field of MWP is. The principle of operation of this technique, labelled as MWP-LCI, is based on the analysis of the interference pattern of the system when a certain sample is considered. The structural features of that sample generate different RF resonances where their position and width in the electrical spectrum are directly related to the different layers that compose the sample. In this way, the current Ph.D. is focused, firstly, in the demonstration of the existing analogy between the LCI and MWP-LCI techniques. Afterwards, several upgrade proposals are made to develop the most basic MWP-LCI structure. By the corresponding theoretical analysis of those proposals, it is demonstrated that the use of the MWP field allows the possibility to improve the limitations related to the first demonstrations carried out in MWP-LCI. Moreover, the experimental demonstrations associated to all the proposals are included, showing an excellent agreement with the theoretical results. Finally, the analysis is focused in the key elements that compose these structures: the sample, the optical source and the dispersive element. Through the different improvements applied to the MWP-LCI technique, we have been able to experimentally demonstrate a sensitivity level of 60 dB with resolutions of 27 µm in a working range that can easily exceed 1 cm.