Scientists have used a microchip to map the back of the eye for disease diagnosis. This is the first time that technical obstacles have been overcome to fabricate a miniature device able to capture high-quality images.

A 0.4 m long Si3N4 delay line confined within 8 mm2 area, with an integrated platinum heater. (Credit: Columbia University)

Ophthalmologists’ current optical coherence tomography (OCT) devices and surveyors’ light detection and ranging (LIDAR) machines are bulky and expensive. Central to chip-scale interferometer is fabrication of the tunable delay line. A delay line calculates how light waves interact, and by tuning to different optical paths, which are like different focal lengths on a camera, it collates the interference pattern to produce a high-contrast 3D image.

The team demonstrated the tunable delay line microchip on an existing commercial OCT system, showing that deeper depths could be probed while maintaining high-resolution images.

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