A new numerical approach to inverse transport equation with error analysis

Qin Li, Ruiwen Shu, Li Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The inverse radiative transfer problem finds broad applications in medical imaging, atmospheric science, astronomy, and many other areas. This problem intends to recover optical properties, denoted as absorption and the scattering coefficient of the media, through source-measurement pairs. A typical computational approach is to form the inverse problem as a PDE-constraint optimization, with the minimizer being the to-be-recovered coefficients. The method is tested to be efficient in practice, but it lacks analytical justification: there is no guarantee of the existence or uniqueness of the minimizer, and the error is hard to quantify. In this paper, we provide a different algorithm by levering the ideas from singular decomposition analysis. Our approach is to decompose the measurements into three components, two of which encode the information of the two coefficients, respectively. We then split the optimization problem into two subproblems and use those two components to recover the absorption and scattering coefficients separately. In this regard, we prove the well-posedness of the new optimization, and the error could be quantified with better precision. In the end, we incorporate the diffusive scaling and show that the error is harder to control in the diffusive limit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3358-3385
Number of pages28
JournalSIAM Journal on Numerical Analysis
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • Inverse problem
  • Optimization
  • Radiative transfer
  • Singular decomposition

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