Abstract

Two natural requirements on a measurable quantity possessed by a paraxially propagating light-field to be suitable for free space optical communication are invariance under free space propagation and invariance under transverse plane rotation. While the former invariance ensures that the measurable quantity is robust while signalling through free space, the latter invariance ensures that a detector measuring the quantity can be oriented at any angle in the transverse plane, and a measurement by the detector yields the same value for the quantity irrespective of the transverse angle, thus avoiding alignment issues. The variance matrix of a paraxially propagating light-field is analyzed from the perspective of the aforementioned invariances. That the “charge” of a paraxial light-field, which is contained in the variance matrix, and which has been previously well studied for its suitability toward free space optical communication, possesses these two invariance properties, emerges naturally in the analysis. Seven functionally independent quantities other than charge, which are derived from the variance matrix, and which share these invariances, are presented and studied for their suitability toward signalling through turbulent atmosphere using the low-order Hermite–Gaussian modes. It is found that the spot size of a Gaussian light-field can be effectively used as a switch, to communicate through short distances in a turbulent atmosphere.

© 2015 Optical Society of America

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