The prolate spheroidal wave functions as invariants of the time reversal operator for an extended scatterer in the Fraunhofer approximation

J Acoust Soc Am. 2009 Jan;125(1):218-26. doi: 10.1121/1.3023060.


The decomposition of the time reversal operator, known by the French acronym DORT, is widely used to detect, locate, and focus on scatterers in various domains such as underwater acoustics, medical ultrasound, and nondestructive evaluation. In the case of point-scatterers, the theory is well understood: The number of nonzero eigenvalues is equal to the number of scatterers, and the eigenvectors correspond to the scatterers Green's function. In the case of extended objects, however, the formalism is not as simple. It is shown here that, in the Fraunhofer approximation, analytical solutions can be found and that the solutions are functions called prolate spheroidal wave-functions. These functions have been studied in information theory as a basis of band-limited and time-limited signals. They also arise in optics. The theoretical solutions are compared to simulation results. Most importantly, the intuition that for an extended objects, the number of nonzero eigenvalues is proportional to the number of resolution cell in the object is justified. The case of three-dimensional objects imaged by a two-dimensional array is also dealt with. Comparison with previous solutions is made, and an application to super-resolution of scatterers is presented.