Polarization-sensitive Mueller-matrix optical coherence tomography
Measuring the Mueller matrix with optical coherence tomography (OCT) makes it possible to acquire the complete polarization properties of scattering media with three-dimensional spatial resolution. We first proved that the measured degree-of-polarization (DOP) of the backscattered light by OCT remains unity-a conclusion that validated the use of Jones calculus in OCT. A multi-channel Mueller-matrix OCT system was then built to measure the Jones-matrix, which can be transformed into a Mueller matrix, images of scattering biological tissues accurately with single depth scan. We showed that when diattenuation is negligible, the round-trip Jones matrix represents a linear retarder, which is the foundation of conventional PS-OCT, and can be calculated with a single incident polarization state although the one-way Jones matrix generally represents an elliptical retarder; otherwise, two incident polarization states are needed. We discovered the transpose symmetry in the roundtrip Jones matrix, which is critical for eliminating the arbitrary phase difference between the two measured Jones vectors corresponding to the two incident polarization states to yield the correct Jones matrix. We investigated the various contrast mechanisms provided by Mueller-matrix OCT. Our OCT system for the first time offers simultaneously comprehensive polarization contrast mechanisms including the amplitude of birefringence, the orientation of birefringence, and the diattenuation in addition to the polarization-independent intensity contrast, all of which can be extracted from the measured Jones or the equivalent Mueller matrix. The experimental results obtained from rat skin samples, show that Mueller OCT provides complementary structural and functional information on biological samples and reveal that polarization contrast is more sensitive to thermal degeneration of biological tissues than amplitude-based contrast. Finally, an optical-fiber-based multi-channel Mueller-matrix OCT was built and a new rigorous algorithm was developed to retrieve the calibrated polarization properties of a sample. For the first time to our knowledge, fiber-based polarization-sensitive OCT was dynamically calibrated to eliminate the polarization distortion caused by the single-mode optical fiber in the sample arm, thereby overcoming a key technical impediment to the application of optical fibers in this technology.