A method is proposed which enables the retrieval of the thickness or of the projected electron density of a sample from a single input image acquired with an edge illumination phase-contrast imaging setup. The method assumes the case of a quasi-homogeneous sample, i.e. a sample with a constant ratio between the real and imaginary parts of its complex refractive index. Compared with current methods based on combining two edge illumination images acquired in different configurations of the setup, this new approach presents advantages in terms of simplicity of acquisition procedure and shorter data collection time, which are very important especially for applications such as computed tomography and dynamical imaging. Furthermore, the fact that phase information is directly extracted, instead of its derivative, can enable a simpler image interpretation and be beneficial for subsequent processing such as segmentation. The method is first theoretically derived and its conditions of applicability defined. Quantitative accuracy in the case of homogeneous objects as well as enhanced image quality for the imaging of complex biological samples are demonstrated through experiments at two synchrotron radiation facilities. The large range of applicability, the robustness against noise and the need for only one input image suggest a high potential for investigations in various research subjects.
Keywords: X-ray imaging; image formation theory; phase retrieval; phase-contrast imaging.