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Energy-efficient low-Fresnel-number Bessel beams and their application in optical coherence tomography

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Abstract

Bessel beams feature a very large depth-of-focus (DOF) compared to conventional focusing schemes, but their central lobe carries only a small fraction of the total beam power, leading to a strongly reduced peak irradiance. This is problematic for power-limited applications, such as optical coherence tomography (OCT) or optical coherence microscopy, as it can result in a prohibitive reduction of the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). Using scalar diffraction theory, we show that the trade-off between DOF and peak irradiance of Bessel beams depends solely on the Fresnel number N. We demonstrate the existence of a low-Fresnel-number regime, N<10, in which axicons with Gaussian illumination can generate energy-efficient Bessel beams with a small number of sidelobes. In the context of OCT, this translates into DOF enhancements of up to 13× for a SNR penalty below 20 dB, which is confirmed by our experiments. We expect that these findings will enable improved performance of optical systems with extended DOF.

© 2014 Optical Society of America

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