Imaging is the estimation of the spatial distribution of a physical object by measuring the optical radiation it emits, or by making use of an optical wave that interacts with the object, via reflection or transmission, for example, before being measured by a detector. The resolution of an imaging system is limited by the inability to localize the optical field at points of the object. Under otherwise ideal conditions, resolution is limited by diffraction. The sensitivity of an imaging system is limited by the uncertainty in the measurement. Under ideal conditions, this is determined by photon noise, which depends on the statistical fluctuations of the light.
In conventional imaging systems, an extended detector, such as a CCD camera or an array detector, measures the spatial distribution of the optical intensity, which is proportional to the photon flux density. In interferometric systems, the spatial distribution of the optical field is inferred from measurements of the optical intensity.
With the emergence of coherence theory, imaging systems based on measurements of the second-order coherence function at pairs of points in the detection plane were developed. An example is the imaging of an incoherent object based on the van Cittert-Zernike theorem. Imaging systems based on measurement of intensity correlation, or the photon coincidence rate, at pairs of points, were developed in the 1960s. A classic example of the photon-correlation imaging of an object emitting thermal light is stellar imaging using a Hanbury-Brown-Twiss intensity-correlation interferometer.
More recently, two-photon light, which may be generated via spontaneous parametric downconversion in a second-order nonlinear optical crystal, has been used for imaging. This type of two-photon (or biphoton) imaging, which has come to be called quantum imaging, is also based on the measurement of photon coincidence by the use of photon-counting array detectors or by scanning two photon-counting detectors at pairs of points.
To compare the resolution and sensitivity of imaging systems based on the aforementioned types of measurements, it is necessary to derive expressions for the measured quantities in terms of the object distribution. The point-spread functions based on such expressions can be used to assess the resolution. One measure of the sensitivity of the imaging process is the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of the measured variables. The statistical nature of the light source must be known in order to determine the SNR.
The purpose of this chapter is to compare the resolution and sensitivity of photon-correlation imaging systems that make use of thermal light and two-photon light. We will henceforth refer to these two imaging modalities as classical and quantum photon-correlation imaging, or simply classical and quantum imaging, respectively. Clearly, light in other quantum states can also be used for imaging.
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