Modeling light scattering in tissue as continuous random media using a versatile refractive index correlation function

Jeremy D. Rogers, Andrew J. Radosevich, Ji Yi, Vadim Backman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Optical interactions with biological tissue provide powerful tools for study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. When optical methods are used in applications involving tissue, scattering of light is an important phenomenon. In imaging modalities, scattering provides contrast, but also limits imaging depth, so models help optimize an imaging technique. Scattering can also be used to collect information about the tissue itself providing diagnostic value. Therapies involving focused beams require scattering models to assess dose distribution. In all cases, models of light scattering in tissue are crucial to correctly interpreting the measured signal. Here, we review a versatile model of light scattering that uses the Whittle-Matérn correlation family to describe the refractive index correlation function B(d). In weakly scattering media such as tissue, B(d) determines the shape of the power spectral density from which all other scattering characteristics are derived. This model encompasses many forms such as mass fractal and the Henyey-Greenstein function as special cases. We discuss normalization and calculation of optical properties including the scattering coefficient and anisotropy factor. Experimental methods using the model are also described to quantify tissue properties that depend on length scales of only a few tens of nanometers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6589943
JournalIEEE Journal on Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014


  • Biophotonics
  • continuous random media
  • mass fractal
  • scattering
  • tissue optics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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