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Sparse Array Signal Processing: New Array Geometries, Parameter Estimation, and Theoretical Analysis


Liu, Chun-Lin (2018) Sparse Array Signal Processing: New Array Geometries, Parameter Estimation, and Theoretical Analysis. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/NSTQ-SD57.


Array signal processing focuses on an array of sensors receiving the incoming waveforms in the environment, from which source information, such as directions of arrival (DOA), signal power, amplitude, polarization, and velocity, can be estimated. This topic finds ubiquitous applications in radar, astronomy, tomography, imaging, and communications. In these applications, sparse arrays have recently attracted considerable attention, since they are capable of resolving O(N2) uncorrelated source directions with N physical sensors. This is unlike the uniform linear arrays (ULA), which identify at most N-1 uncorrelated sources with N sensors. These sparse arrays include minimum redundancy arrays (MRA), nested arrays, and coprime arrays. All these arrays have an O(N2)-long central ULA segment in the difference coarray, which is defined as the set of differences between sensor locations. This O(N2) property makes it possible to resolve O(N2) uncorrelated sources, using only N physical sensors.

The main contribution of this thesis is to provide a new direction for array geometry and performance analysis of sparse arrays in the presence of nonidealities. The first part of this thesis focuses on designing novel array geometries that are robust to effects of mutual coupling. It is known that, mutual coupling between sensors has an adverse effect on the estimation of DOA. While there are methods to counteract this through appropriate modeling and calibration, they are usually computationally expensive, and sensitive to model mismatch. On the other hand, sparse arrays, such as MRA, nested arrays, and coprime arrays, have reduced mutual coupling compared to ULA, but all of these have their own disadvantages. This thesis introduces a new array called the super nested array, which has many of the good properties of the nested array, and at the same time achieves reduced mutual coupling. Many theoretical properties are proved and simulations are included to demonstrate the superior performance of super nested arrays in the presence of mutual coupling.

Two-dimensional planar sparse arrays with large difference coarrays have also been known for a long time. These include billboard arrays, open box arrays (OBA), and 2D nested arrays. However, all of them have considerable mutual coupling. This thesis proposes new planar sparse arrays with the same large difference coarrays as the OBA, but with reduced mutual coupling. The new arrays include half open box arrays (HOBA), half open box arrays with two layers (HOBA-2), and hourglass arrays. Among these, simulations show that hourglass arrays have the best estimation performance in presence of mutual coupling.

The second part of this thesis analyzes the performance of sparse arrays from a theoretical perspective. We first study the Cramér-Rao bound (CRB) for sparse arrays, which poses a lower bound on the variances of unbiased DOA estimators. While there exist landmark papers on the study of the CRB in the context of array processing, the closed-form expressions available in the literature are not applicable in the context of sparse arrays for which the number of identifiable sources exceeds the number of sensors. This thesis derives a new expression for the CRB to fill this gap. Based on the proposed CRB expression, it is possible to prove the previously known experimental observation that, when there are more sources than sensors, the CRB stagnates to a constant value as the SNR tends to infinity. It is also possible to precisely specify the relation between the number of sensors and the number of uncorrelated sources such that these sources could be resolved.

Recently, it has been shown that correlation subspaces, which reveal the structure of the covariance matrix, help to improve some existing DOA estimators. However, the bases, the dimension, and other theoretical properties of correlation subspaces remain to be investigated. This thesis proposes generalized correlation subspaces in one and multiple dimensions. This leads to new insights into correlation subspaces and DOA estimation with prior knowledge. First, it is shown that the bases and the dimension of correlation subspaces are fundamentally related to difference coarrays, which were previously found to be important in the study of sparse arrays. Furthermore, generalized correlation subspaces can handle certain forms of prior knowledge about source directions. These results allow one to derive a broad class of DOA estimators with improved performance.

It is empirically known that the coarray structure is susceptible to sensor failures, and the reliability of sparse arrays remains a significant but challenging topic for investigation. This thesis advances a general theory for quantifying such robustness, by studying the effect of sensor failure on the difference coarray. We first present the (k-)essentialness property, which characterizes the combinations of the faulty sensors that shrink the difference coarray. Based on this, the notion of (k-)fragility is proposed to quantify the reliability of sparse arrays with faulty sensors, along with comprehensive studies of their properties. These novel concepts provide quite a few insights into the interplay between the array geometry and its robustness. For instance, for the same number of sensors, it can be proved that ULA is more robust than the coprime array, and the coprime array is more robust than the nested array. Rigorous development of these ideas leads to expressions for the probability of coarray failure, as a function of the probability of sensor failure.

The thesis concludes with some remarks on future directions and open problems.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Array Signal Processing; Sparse Arrays; Difference Coarrays; DOA Estimation; Mutual Coupling; Cramér-Rao Bounds; Robustness
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Electrical Engineering
Awards:Ben P. C. Chou Doctoral Prize in Information Science and Technology, 2018.
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Vaidyanathan, P. P.
Thesis Committee:
  • Vaidyanathan, P. P. (chair)
  • Abu-Mostafa, Yaser S.
  • Bruck, Jehoshua
  • Kostina, Victoria
Defense Date:14 May 2018
Non-Caltech Author Email:clliu144 (AT)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Office of Naval Research (ONR)N00014-11-1-0676
Office of Naval Research (ONR)N00014-15-1-2118
Office of Naval Research (ONR)N00014-17-1-2732
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05302018-095132389
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for Chapter 2. adapted for Chapter 3. adapted for Chapter 3. adapted for Chapter 4. adapted for Chapter 4. adapted for Chapter 5. adapted for Chapter 5. adapted for Chapter 6. adapted for Chapter 6. adapted for Chapter 7. adapted for Chapter 7. adapted for Chapter 9.
Liu, Chun-Lin0000-0003-3135-9684
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:10970
Deposited By: Chun Lin Liu
Deposited On:04 Jun 2018 19:16
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 00:21

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