An innovative iterative search method called the synthetic phase-shifting (SPS) algorithm is proposed. This search algorithm is used for maximum-likelihood (ML) estimation of a wavefront that is described by a finite set of Zernike Fringe polynomials. In this paper, we estimate the coefficient, or parameter, values of the wavefront using a single interferogram obtained from a point-diffraction interferometer (PDI). In order to find the estimates, we first calculate the squared-difference between the measured and simulated interferograms. Under certain assumptions, this squared-difference image can be treated as an interferogram showing the phase difference between the true wavefront deviation and simulated wavefront deviation. The wavefront deviation is the difference between the reference and the test wavefronts. We calculate the phase difference using a traditional phase-shifting technique without physical phase-shifters. We present a detailed forward model for the PDI interferogram, including the effect of the finite size of a detector pixel. The algorithm was validated with computational studies and its performance and constraints are discussed. A prototype PDI was built and the algorithm was also experimentally validated. A large wavefront deviation was successfully estimated without using null optics or physical phase-shifters. The experimental result shows that the proposed algorithm has great potential to provide an accurate tool for non-null testing.
© 2013 Optical Society of America
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