Inexpensive High Speed Electronic Wavefront Error Correction for Free-Space Optical Systems

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Block diagram of a communication system including an embodiment of a system and method of electronic wavefront correction for free-space optical communications
Guifang Li, Ph.D.
Inwoong Kim
Xiaobo Xie
Patent Protection

Electronic Wavefront Correction for Free-Space Optical Communications

US Patent 9,374,158
Electronic wavefront correction for PSK free-space optical communications,
IEEE Electron. Lett., 2007 Vol. 43 No. 20.

The design of a system for random wavefront error correction by means of a detector array that compares an incoming signal with a local reference wavefront, and the electronic signal processing chip that outputs an undistorted signal.

Free-space optical communication has become an alternative to fiber based technologies, and is implemented when physical connectivity is impractical (e.g. satellite communication). Unfortunately, transmission of light through the atmosphere induces devastating wavefront distortions that ruin the signal’s content. Therefore, the inclusion of signal corrective technologies is required. Currently, adaptive optics techniques are used to perform this correction, and consist of feedback loops with deformable mirrors that sample and iteratively correct the signal. While this technology has allowed free-space communication to become successful, physical correction of the optical signal is both costly and slow.

Technical Details

Researchers at UCF have developed a new solution that replaces the slow and costly deformable mirror loop with a detector array and digital signal processing (DSP) chip. The proposed system samples an incoming signal, be it for communication or imaging, through a detector array that references against a local oscillator source generating an interference pattern from which the atmospheric wavefront distortion is calculated. These readings are subtracted from the incoming signal as correction. Performance of this technique approaches a system free of wavefront distortion, and could be used to greatly increase the capabilities of any system that suffers from random media wavefront distortion.


  • Processing equipment is significantly less expensive than current adaptive optics techniques
  • Large increase in data transfer/processing speeds
  • More streamline, stable, and robust than current techniques
  • Easily integrated into a wide variety of systems which suffer from wavefront error


  • Systems where wavefront correction of an optical signal, data or image, is necessary due to propagation through a disordered media
  • Telecommunications
  • Bioimaging
  • Free-space optical communication
  • Retinal imaging