Imaging with a small number of photons

Nat Commun. 2015 Jan 5;6:5913. doi: 10.1038/ncomms6913.


Low-light-level imaging techniques have application in many diverse fields, ranging from biological sciences to security. A high-quality digital camera based on a multi-megapixel array will typically record an image by collecting of order 10(5) photons per pixel, but by how much could this photon flux be reduced? In this work we demonstrate a single-photon imaging system based on a time-gated intensified camera from which the image of an object can be inferred from very few detected photons. We show that a ghost-imaging configuration, where the image is obtained from photons that have never interacted with the object, is a useful approach for obtaining images with high signal-to-noise ratios. The use of heralded single photons ensures that the background counts can be virtually eliminated from the recorded images. By applying principles of image compression and associated image reconstruction, we obtain high-quality images of objects from raw data formed from an average of fewer than one detected photon per image pixel.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't