Fundamental Limits on Subwavelength Range Resolution

Andrew N. Jordan, John C. Howell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We establish fundamental bounds on subwavelength resolution for the radar ranging problem, "superradar."Information-theoretical metrics are applied to probe the resolution limits for the case of both direct electric field measurement and photon-counting measurements. To establish fundamental limits, we begin with the simplest case of range resolution of two point targets from a metrology perspective. These information-based metrics establish fundamental bounds on both the minimal discrimination distance of two targets and the precision on the separation of two subwavelength resolved targets. For the minimal separation distance, both the direct field method and photon counting method show that the discriminability vanishes quadratically as the target separation goes to zero, and is proportional to the variance of the second derivative of the electromagnetic field profile. Nevertheless, robust subwavelength estimation is possible. Several different band-limited function classes are introduced to optimize discrimination. We discuss the application of maximum likelihood estimation to improve the range precision with optimal performance. The general theory of multiparameter estimation is analyzed, and a simple example of estimating both the separation and relative strength of the two point reflectors is presented.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number064046
JournalPhysical Review Applied
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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