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First-Photon Imaging

Science  28 Nov 2013:

DOI: 10.1126/science.1246775

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Abstract

Imagers that use their own illumination can capture three-dimensional (3D) structure and reflectivity information. With photon-counting detectors, images can be acquired at extremely low photon fluxes. To suppress the Poisson noise inherent in low-flux operation, such imagers typically require hundreds of detected photons per pixel for accurate range and reflectivity determination. We introduce a low-flux imaging technique, called first-photon imaging, which is a computational imager that exploits spatial correlations found in real-world scenes and the physics of low-flux measurements. Our technique recovers 3D structure and reflectivity from the first detected photon at each pixel. We demonstrate simultaneous acquisition of sub-pulse duration range and 4-bit reflectivity information in the presence of high background noise. First-photon imaging may be of considerable value to both microscopy and remote sensing.

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