For given laser output power, object under investigation, and photodiode noise level, we have theoretically compared the signal-to-noise ratios of a heterodyne scanning imager based on a Michelson interferometer and of an autodyne setup based on the laser optical feedback imaging (LOFI) technique. In both cases, the image is obtained point by point. In the heterodyne configuration, the beating between the reference beam and the signal beam is realized outside the laser cavity (i.e., directly on the detector), while in the autodyne configuration, the wave beating takes place inside the laser cavity and therefore is indirectly detected. In the autodyne configuration, where the laser relaxation oscillations play a leading role, we have compared one-dimensional scans obtained by numerical simulations with different lasers' dynamical parameters. Finally, we have determined the best laser for LOFI applications and the experimental conditions for which the LOFI detection setup (autodyne interferometer) is competitive compared to a heterodyne interferometer.
© 2010 Optical Society of America
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