Elastography plays a key role in characterizing soft media such as biological tissue. Although this technology has found widespread use in both clinical diagnostics and basic science research, nearly all methods require direct physical contact with the object of interest and can even be invasive. For a number of applications, such as diagnostic measurements on the anterior segment of the eye, physical contact is not desired and may even be prohibited. Here we present a fundamentally new approach to dynamic elastography using non-contact mechanical stimulation of soft media with precise spatial and temporal shaping. We call it acoustic micro-tapping (AμT) because it employs focused, air-coupled ultrasound to induce significant mechanical displacement at the boundary of a soft material using reflection-based radiation force. Combining it with high-speed, four-dimensional (three space dimensions plus time) phase-sensitive optical coherence tomography creates a non-contact tool for high-resolution and quantitative dynamic elastography of soft tissue at near real-time imaging rates. The overall approach is demonstrated in ex-vivo porcine cornea.
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