Optical sensing offers an attractive option for detection of surface biopotentials in human subjects where electromagnetically noisy environments exist or safety requirements dictate a high degree of galvanic isolation. Such circumstances may be found in modern magnetic resonance imaging systems for example. The low signal amplitude and high source impedance of typical biopotentials have made optical transduction an uncommon sensing approach. We propose a solution consisting of an electro-optic phase modulator as a transducer, coupled to a vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser and the self-mixing signal detected via a photodiode. This configuration is physically evaluated with respect to synthesized surface electrocardiographic (EKG) signals of varying amplitudes and using differing optical feedback regimes. Optically detected EKG signals using strong optical feedback show the feasibility of this approach and indicate directions for optimization of the electro-optic transducer for improved signal-to-noise ratios. This may provide a new means of biopotential detection suited for environments characterized by harsh electromagnetic interference.
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