A new optical fiber imaging technique could transform imaging for industrial inspection and environmental monitoring applications. It allows 3D imaging at video rates through a fiber the width of a human hair. In the longer term, with development, the technique can work for applications in medical imaging.
Typically, when light shines through a single optical fiber imaging, crosstalk between modes scrambles the light to make the image unrecognizable. To resolve this, the team used advanced beam shaping techniques to pattern the input laser light to the fiber to create a single spot at the output. The spot of light then scans over the scene. The system measures the intensity of the backscattered light into another fiber. The measurement gives the brightness of each pixel in the image.
The researchers also measured the time-of-flight of the light using a pulsed laser. These 3D images can be recorded at distances from a few tens of millimeters to several meters away from the fiber end with millimetric distance resolution and frame rates high enough to perceive motion at close to video quality.
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