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. 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.
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- S. Farsiu, J. Christofferson, B. Eriksson, P. Milanfar, B. Friedlander, A. Shakouri, R. Nowak, "Statistical detection and imaging of objects hidden in turbid media using ballistic photons", Applied Optics, vol. 46, no. 23, pp. 5805–5822, Aug. 2007.