A three-dimensional photoacoustic imaging method is presented that uses a Mach–Zehnder interferometer for measurement of acoustic waves generated in an object by irradiation with short laser pulses. The signals acquired with the interferometer correspond to line integrals over the acoustic wave field. An algorithm for reconstruction of a three-dimensional image from such signals measured at multiple positions around the object is shown that is a combination of a frequency-domain technique and the inverse Radon transform. From images of a small source scanning across the interferometer beam it is estimated that the spatial resolution of the imaging system is in the range of 100 to about , depending on the interferometer beam width and the size of the aperture formed by the scan length divided by the source–detector distance. By taking an image of a phantom it could be shown that the imaging system in its present configuration is capable of producing three-dimensional images of objects with an overall size in the range of several millimeters to centimeters. Strategies are proposed how the technique can be scaled for imaging of smaller objects with higher resolution.
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