Abstract

An expression for the probability density function for the arrival time of the Mth photoelectron (M = 1, 2, 3, …), as measured from an arbitrarily chosen origin of time, is derived for an arbitrary optical field. The expression is evaluated for the field of a single-mode laser and for the gaussian (thermal) field produced by scattering laser light from the surface of a rotating ground-glass disk. A procedure for finding the maximum-likelihood estimate of the mean field irradiance based on measurements of the arrival time of the Mth photoelectron is given. Results of actual experiments are discussed which indicate that, in the case of the gaussian field, the sequential-detection procedure requires less total observation time to determine an estimate of the mean field irradiance than more conventional fixed-sample-size techniques. The least amount of time to reach an estimate results if the sequential-detection procedure measures the arrival time of the first photoelectron.

© 1973 Optical Society of America

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Equations (31)

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