Finite alphabet phase retrieval

Tamir Bendory, Dan Edidin, Ivan Gonzalez

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review


We consider the finite alphabet phase retrieval problem: recovering a signal whose entries lie in a small alphabet of possible values from its Fourier magnitudes. This problem arises in the celebrated technology of X-ray crystallography to determine the atomic structure of biological molecules. Our main result states that for generic values of the alphabet, two signals have the same Fourier magnitudes if and only if several partitions have the same difference sets. Thus, the finite alphabet phase retrieval problem reduces to the combinatorial problem of determining a signal from those difference sets. Notably, this result holds true when one of the letters of the alphabet is zero, namely, for sparse signals with finite alphabet, which is the situation in X-ray crystallography.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-160
Number of pages10
JournalApplied and Computational Harmonic Analysis
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • Homometric sets
  • Phase retrieval
  • Sparse signals

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Mathematics


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