Abstract

Phase of an electromagnetic wave propagating through a sample-of-interest is well understood in the context of quantitative phase imaging in transmission-mode microscopy. In the past decade, Fourier-domain optical coherence tomography has been used to extend quantitative phase imaging to the reflection-mode. Unlike transmission-mode electromagnetic phase, however, the origin and characteristics of reflection-mode Fourier phase are poorly understood, especially in samples with a slowly varying refractive index. In this paper, the general theory of Fourier phase from first principles is presented, and it is shown that Fourier phase is a joint estimate of subresolution offset and mean spatial frequency of the coherence-gated sample refractive index. It is also shown that both spectral-domain phase microscopy and depth-resolved spatial-domain low-coherence quantitative phase microscopy are special cases of this general theory. Analytical expressions are provided for both, and simulations are presented to explain and support the theoretical results. These results are further used to show how Fourier phase allows the estimation of an axial mean spatial frequency profile of the sample, along with depth-resolved characterization of localized optical density change and sample heterogeneity. Finally, a Fourier phase-based explanation of Doppler optical coherence tomography is also provided.

© 2015 Optical Society of America

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