In fiber-based optical coherence tomography (OCT), the interference fringes suffer from the fading effect due to misalignment of the light polarization states between the reference and sample arms, resulting in sensitivity degradation and image intensity variation. We theoretically and experimentally analyzed the relation between the misalignment and the fading coefficient. Assuming that the variation of the light polarization in single-mode fiber (SMF) was a random process, we statistically quantified the fading effect. Furthermore, in OCT configuration based on the Michelson interferometer, we reported an interesting observation that the polarization states of light traveling a round-trip in SMF are not evenly distributed on the Poincare sphere. Based on this observation, we demonstrated the existence of an optimal output polarization state of the reference arm to mitigate the fading effect. We demonstrated that in an optimal setup, the statistical average signal-to-noise ratio could be 3.5 dB higher than a setup without proper polarization management.
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27 July 2017: A typographical correction was made to Eq. (4).
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