Computing a projection operator onto the null space of a linear imaging operator: tutorial

Joseph Kuo, Jason Granstedt, Umberto Villa, Mark A. Anastasio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many imaging systems can be approximately described by a linear operator that maps an object property to a collection of discrete measurements. However, even in the absence of measurement noise, such operators are generally “blind” to certain components of the object, and hence information is lost in the imaging process. Mathematically, this is explained by the fact that the imaging operator can possess a null space. All objects in the null space, by definition, are mapped to a collection of identically zero measurements and are hence invisible to the imaging system. As such, characterizing the null space of an imaging operator is of fundamental importance when comparing and/or designing imaging systems. A characterization of the null space can also facilitate the design of regularization strategies for image reconstruction methods. Characterizing the null space via an associated projection operator is, in general, a computationally demanding task. In this tutorial, computational procedures for establishing projection operators that map an object to the null space of a discrete-to-discrete imaging operator are surveyed. A new machine-learning-based approach that employs a linear autoencoder is also presented. The procedures are demonstrated by use of biomedical imaging examples, and their computational complexities and memory requirements are compared.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)470-481
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the Optical Society of America A: Optics and Image Science, and Vision
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition


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