aperture averaging, scintillation, free space optics, optical communications, PDF, probability density, speckle, irradiance fluctuations, Karhunen-Loeve


An accurate PDF of irradiance for a FSO channel is important when designing a laser radar, active laser imaging, or a communications system to operate over the channel. Parameters such as detector threshold level, probability of detection, mean fade time, number of fades, BER, and SNR are derived from the PDF and determine the design constraints of the receiver, transmitter, and corresponding electronics. Current PDF models of irradiance, such as the Gamma-Gamma, do not fully capture the effect of aperture averaging; a reduction in scintillation as the diameter of the collecting optic is increased. The Gamma-Gamma PDF of irradiance is an attractive solution because the parameters of the distribution are derived strictly from atmospheric turbulence parameters; propagation path length, Cn2, l0, and L0. This dissertation describes a heuristic physics-based modeling technique to develop a new PDF of irradiance based upon the optical field. The goal of the new PDF is three-fold: capture the physics of the turbulent atmosphere, better describe aperture averaging effects, and relate parameters of the new model to measurable atmospheric parameters. The modeling decomposes the propagating electromagnetic field into a sum of independent random-amplitude spatial plane waves using an approximation to the Karhunen-Loeve expansion. The scattering effects of the turbulence along the propagation path define the random-amplitude of each component of the expansion. The resulting PDF of irradiance is a double finite sum containing a Bessel function. The newly developed PDF is a generalization of the Gamma-Gamma PDF, and reduces to such in the limit. An experiment was setup and performed to measure the PDF of irradiance for several receiver aperture sizes under moderate to strong turbulence conditions. The propagation path was instrumented with scintillometers and anemometers to characterize the turbulence conditions. The newly developed PDF model and the GG model were compared to histograms of the experimental data. The new PDF model was typically able to match the data as well or better than the GG model under conditions of moderate aperture averaging. The GG model fit the data better than the new PDF under conditions of significant aperture averaging. Due to a limiting scintillation index value of 3, the new PDF was not compared to the GG for point apertures under strong turbulence; a regime where the GG is known to fit data well.


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Graduation Date



Phillips, Ronald


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Degree Program

Electrical Engineering








Release Date

August 2010

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)