In holographic imaging of particle fields, the interference among coherent wave fronts associated with particle scattering gives rise to intrinsic speckle noise, which sets a fundamental limit on the amount of information that particle holography can deliver. It has been established that the intrinsic speckle noise is especially severe in in-line holography because of superposition of virtual image waves, the direct transmitted wave, and the real image. However, at sufficiently high particle number densities, such as those typical in holographic particle image velocimetry (HPIV) applications, intrinsic speckle noise also arises in off-axis particle holography from self-interference among wave fronts that form the real image of particles. To overcome the latter problem we have constructed a mathematical model that relates the first- and second-order statistical properties of the intrinsic speckle noise to relevant holographic system parameters. Consistent with our experimental data, the model provides a direct estimate of the information capacity of particle holography. We show that the noise-limited information capacity can be expressed as the product of particle number density and the extent of the particle field along the optical axis. A large angular aperture of the hologram contributes directly to achievement of high information capacity. We also show that filtering in either digital or optical form is generally ineffective in removing the intrinsic speckle noise from the particle image as a result of the similar spectral properties of the two. These findings emphasize the importance of angular aperture in designing holographic particle imaging systems.
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