Precise phase retrieval for propagation-based images using discrete mathematics

James A. Pollock, Kaye S. Morgan, Linda C.P. Croton, Michelle K. Croughan, Gary Ruben, Naoto Yagi, Hiroshi Sekiguchi, Marcus J. Kitchen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The ill-posed problem of phase retrieval in optics, using one or more intensity measurements, has a multitude of applications using electromagnetic or matter waves. Many phase retrieval algorithms are computed on pixel arrays using discrete Fourier transforms due to their high computational efficiency. However, the mathematics underpinning these algorithms is typically formulated using continuous mathematics, which can result in a loss of spatial resolution in the reconstructed images. Herein we investigate how phase retrieval algorithms for propagation-based phase-contrast X-ray imaging can be rederived using discrete mathematics and result in more precise retrieval for single- and multi-material objects and for spectral image decomposition. We validate this theory through experimental measurements of spatial resolution using computed tomography (CT) reconstructions of plastic phantoms and biological tissues, using detectors with a range of imaging system point spread functions (PSFs). We demonstrate that if the PSF substantially suppresses high spatial frequencies, the potential improvement from utilising the discrete derivation is limited. However, with detectors characterised by a single pixel PSF (e.g. direct, photon-counting X-ray detectors), a significant improvement in spatial resolution can be obtained, demonstrated here at up to 17%.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18469
Number of pages11
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

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