Ballistic photon

Ballistic photons are the light photons that travel through a scattering (turbid) medium in a straight line. Also known as ballistic light. If laser pulses are sent through a turbid medium such as fog or body tissue, most of the photons are either randomly scattered or absorbed. However, across short distances, a few photons pass through the scattering medium in straight lines. These coherent photons are referred to as ballistic photons. Photons that are slightly scattered, retaining some degree of coherence, are referred to as snake photons.

If efficiently detected, there are many applications for ballistic photons especially in coherent high resolution medical imaging systems. Ballistic scanners (using ultrafast time gates) and optical coherence tomography (OCT) (using the interferometry principle) are just two of the popular imaging systems that rely on ballistic photon detection to create diffraction-limited images. Advantages over other existing imaging modalities (e.g., ultrasounds and magnetic-resonance imaging) is that ballistic imaging can achieve a higher resolution in the order of 1 to 10 micro-meters, however it suffers from limited imaging depth. Furthermore, more scattered 'quasi-ballistic' photons are often measured as well to increase the signal 'strength' (i.e., signal-to-noise ratio).

Due to the exponential reduction (with respect to distance) of ballistic photons in a scattering medium, often image processing techniques are applied to the raw captured ballistic images, to reconstruct high quality ones. The aim of ballistic imaging modalities is to reject non-ballistic photons and to retain ballistic photons carrying useful information. To perform this task, specific characteristics of ballistic photons vs. non-ballistic photons are used, such as time of flight through coherence gated imaging, collimation, wavefront propagation and polarization.[1]


  1. ^ Lihong V. Wang; Hsin-i Wu (26 September 2012). Biomedical Optics: Principles and Imaging. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 3–. ISBN 978-0-470-17700-6.

Light is electromagnetic radiation within a certain portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The word usually refers to visible light, which is the visible spectrum that is visible to the human eye and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light is usually defined as having wavelengths in the range of 400–700 nanometres (nm), or 4.00 × 10−7 to 7.00 × 10−7 m, between the infrared (with longer wavelengths) and the ultraviolet (with shorter wavelengths). This wavelength means a frequency range of roughly 430–750 terahertz (THz).

The main source of light on Earth is the Sun. Sunlight provides the energy that green plants use to create sugars mostly in the form of starches, which release energy into the living things that digest them. This process of photosynthesis provides virtually all the energy used by living things. Historically, another important source of light for humans has been fire, from ancient campfires to modern kerosene lamps. With the development of electric lights and power systems, electric lighting has effectively replaced firelight. Some species of animals generate their own light, a process called bioluminescence. For example, fireflies use light to locate mates, and vampire squids use it to hide themselves from prey.

The primary properties of visible light are intensity, propagation direction, frequency or wavelength spectrum, and polarization, while its speed in a vacuum, 299,792,458 metres per second, is one of the fundamental constants of nature. Visible light, as with all types of electromagnetic radiation (EMR), is experimentally found to always move at this speed in a vacuum.In physics, the term light sometimes refers to electromagnetic radiation of any wavelength, whether visible or not. In this sense, gamma rays, X-rays, microwaves and radio waves are also light. Like all types of EM radiation, visible light propagates as waves. However, the energy imparted by the waves is absorbed at single locations the way particles are absorbed. The absorbed energy of the EM waves is called a photon, and represents the quanta of light. When a wave of light is transformed and absorbed as a photon, the energy of the wave instantly collapses to a single location, and this location is where the photon "arrives." This is what is called the wave function collapse. This dual wave-like and particle-like nature of light is known as the wave–particle duality. The study of light, known as optics, is an important research area in modern physics.

List of laser articles

This is a list of laser topics.

Medical optical imaging

Medical optical imaging is the use of light as an investigational imaging technique for medical applications. Examples include optical microscopy, spectroscopy, endoscopy, scanning laser ophthalmoscopy, and optical coherence tomography. Because light is an electromagnetic wave, similar phenomena occur in X-rays, microwaves, and radio waves.

Optical imaging systems may be divided into diffusive and ballistic imaging systems.

Monte Carlo method for photon transport

Modeling photon propagation with Monte Carlo methods is a flexible yet rigorous approach to simulate photon transport. In the method, local rules of photon transport are expressed as probability distributions which describe the step size of photon movement between sites of photon-tissue interaction and the angles of deflection in a photon's trajectory when a scattering event occurs. This is equivalent to modeling photon transport analytically by the radiative transfer equation (RTE), which describes the motion of photons using a differential equation. However, closed-form solutions of the RTE are often not possible; for some geometries, the diffusion approximation can be used to simplify the RTE, although this, in turn, introduces many inaccuracies, especially near sources and boundaries. In contrast, Monte Carlo simulations can be made arbitrarily accurate by increasing the number of photons traced. For example, see the movie, where a Monte Carlo simulation of a pencil beam incident on a semi-infinite medium models both the initial ballistic photon flow and the later diffuse propagation.

The Monte Carlo method is necessarily statistical and therefore requires significant computation time to achieve precision. In addition Monte Carlo simulations can keep track of multiple physical quantities simultaneously, with any desired spatial and temporal resolution. This flexibility makes Monte Carlo modeling a powerful tool. Thus, while computationally inefficient, Monte Carlo methods are often considered the standard for simulated measurements of photon transport for many biomedical applications.

Optical coherence tomography

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is an imaging technique that uses low-coherence light to capture micrometer-resolution, two- and three-dimensional images from within optical scattering media (e.g., biological tissue). It is used for medical imaging and industrial nondestructive testing (NDT). Optical coherence tomography is based on low-coherence interferometry, typically employing near-infrared light. The use of relatively long wavelength light allows it to penetrate into the scattering medium. Confocal microscopy, another optical technique, typically penetrates less deeply into the sample but with higher resolution.

Depending on the properties of the light source (superluminescent diodes, ultrashort pulsed lasers, and supercontinuum lasers have been employed), optical coherence tomography has achieved sub-micrometer resolution (with very wide-spectrum sources emitting over a ~100 nm wavelength range).

Optical coherence tomography is one of a class of optical tomographic techniques. A relatively recent implementation of optical coherence tomography, frequency-domain optical coherence tomography, provides advantages in signal-to-noise ratio, permitting faster signal acquisition. Commercially available optical coherence tomography systems are employed in diverse applications, including art conservation and diagnostic medicine, notably in ophthalmology and optometry where it can be used to obtain detailed images from within the retina. Recently, it has also begun to be used in interventional cardiology to help diagnose coronary artery disease. It has also shown promise in dermatology to improve the diagnostic process.


The photon is a type of elementary particle, the quantum of the electromagnetic field including electromagnetic radiation such as light, and the force carrier for the electromagnetic force (even when static via virtual particles). The photon has zero rest mass and always moves at the speed of light within a vacuum.

Like all elementary particles, photons are currently best explained by quantum mechanics and exhibit wave–particle duality, exhibiting properties of both waves and particles. For example, a single photon may be refracted by a lens and exhibit wave interference with itself, and it can behave as a particle with definite and finite measurable position or momentum, though not both at the same time as per the Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. The photon's wave and quantum qualities are two observable aspects of a single phenomenon—they cannot be described by any mechanical model; a representation of this dual property of light that assumes certain points on the wavefront to be the seat of the energy is not possible. The quanta in a light wave are not spatially localized.

The modern concept of the photon was developed gradually by Albert Einstein in the early 20th century to explain experimental observations that did not fit the classical wave model of light. The benefit of the photon model is that it accounts for the frequency dependence of light's energy, and explains the ability of matter and electromagnetic radiation to be in thermal equilibrium. The photon model accounts for anomalous observations, including the properties of black-body radiation, that others (notably Max Planck) had tried to explain using semiclassical models. In that model, light is described by Maxwell's equations, but material objects emit and absorb light in quantized amounts (i.e., they change energy only by certain particular discrete amounts). Although these semiclassical models contributed to the development of quantum mechanics, many further experiments beginning with the phenomenon of Compton scattering of single photons by electrons, validated Einstein's hypothesis that light itself is quantized. In 1926 the optical physicist Frithiof Wolfers and the chemist Gilbert N. Lewis coined the name "photon" for these particles. After Arthur H. Compton won the Nobel Prize in 1927 for his scattering studies, most scientists accepted that light quanta have an independent existence, and the term "photon" was accepted.

In the Standard Model of particle physics, photons and other elementary particles are described as a necessary consequence of physical laws having a certain symmetry at every point in spacetime. The intrinsic properties of particles, such as charge, mass, and spin, are determined by this gauge symmetry. The photon concept has led to momentous advances in experimental and theoretical physics, including lasers, Bose–Einstein condensation, quantum field theory, and the probabilistic interpretation of quantum mechanics. It has been applied to photochemistry, high-resolution microscopy, and measurements of molecular distances. Recently, photons have been studied as elements of quantum computers, and for applications in optical imaging and optical communication such as quantum cryptography.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.