We consider a wireless optical communication link in which the laser source is a Gaussian Schell beam. The effects of atmospheric turbulence strength and degree of source spatial coherence on aperture averaging and average bit error rate are examined. To accomplish this, we have derived analytic expressions for the spatial covariance of irradiance fluctuations and log-intensity variance for a Gaussian beam of any degree of coherence in the weak fluctuation regime. When spatial coherence of the transmitted source beam is reduced, intensity fluctuations (scintillations) decrease, leading to a significant reduction in the bit error rate of the optical communication link. We have also identified an enhanced aperture-averaging effect that occurs in tightly focused coherent Gaussian beams and in collimated and slightly divergent partially coherent beams. The expressions derived provide a useful design tool for selecting the optimal transmitter beam size, receiver aperture size, beam spatial coherence, transmitter focusing, etc., for the anticipated atmospheric channel conditions.
© 2003 Optical Society of America
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