Section: Research Program

Inverse problems for heterogeneous systems

The area of inverse problems covers a large class of theoretical and practical issues which are important in many applications (see for instance the books of Isakov [67] or Kaltenbacher, Neubauer, and Scherzer [69]). Roughly speaking, an inverse problem is a problem where one attempts to recover an unknown property of a given system from its response to an external probing signal. For systems described by evolution PDE, one can be interested in the reconstruction from partial measurements of the state (initial, final or current), the inputs (a source term, for instance) or the parameters of the model (a physical coefficient for example). For stationary or periodic problems (i.e. problems where the time dependence is given), one can be interested in determining from boundary data a local heterogeneity (shape of an obstacle, value of a physical coefficient describing the medium, etc.). Such inverse problems are known to be generally ill-posed and their study leads to investigate the following questions:

  • Uniqueness. The question here is to know whether the measurements uniquely determine the unknown quantity to be recovered. This theoretical issue is a preliminary step in the study of any inverse problem and can be a hard task.

  • Stability. When uniqueness is ensured, the question of stability, which is closely related to sensitivity, deserves special attention. Stability estimates provide an upper bound for the parameter error given some uncertainty on data. This issue is closely related to the so-called observability inequality in systems theory.

  • Reconstruction. Inverse problems being usually ill-posed, one needs to develop specific reconstruction algorithms which are robust to noise, disturbances and discretization. A wide class of methods is based on optimization techniques.

We can split our research in inverse problems into two classes which both appear in FSIS and CWS:

  1. Identification for evolution PDE.

    Driven by applications, the identification problem for systems of infinite dimension described by evolution PDE has seen in the last three decades a fast and significant growth. The unknown to be recovered can be the (initial/final) state (e.g. state estimation problems [35], [59], [63], [89] for the design of feedback controllers), an input (for instance source inverse problems [32], [44], [53]) or a parameter of the system. These problems are generally ill-posed and many regularization approaches have been developed. Among the different methods used for identification, let us mention optimization techniques ( [46]), specific one-dimensional techniques (like in [36]) or observer-based methods as in [73].

    In the last few years, we have developed observers to solve initial data inverse problems for a class of linear systems of infinite dimension. Let us recall that observers, or Luenberger observers  [72], have been introduced in automatic control theory to estimate the state of a dynamical system of finite dimension from the knowledge of an output (for more references, see for instance [77] or [91]). Using observers, we have proposed in [80], [64] an iterative algorithm to reconstruct initial data from partial measurements for some evolution equations.We are deepening our activities in this direction by considering more general operators or more general sources and the reconstruction of coefficients for the wave equation. In connection with this problem, we study the stability in the determination of these coefficients. To achieve this, we use geometrical optics, which is a classical albeit powerful tool to obtain quantitative stability estimates on some inverse problems with a geometrical background, see for instance  [38], [37].

  2. Geometric inverse problems.

    We investigate some geometric inverse problems that appear naturally in many applications, like medical imaging and non destructive testing. A typical problem we have in mind is the following: given a domain Ω containing an (unknown) local heterogeneity ω, we consider the boundary value problem of the form

    L u = 0 , ( Ω ω ) u = f , ( Ω ) B u = 0 , ( ω )

    where L is a given partial differential operator describing the physical phenomenon under consideration (typically a second order differential operator), B the (possibly unknown) operator describing the boundary condition on the boundary of the heterogeneity and f the exterior source used to probe the medium. The question is then to recover the shape of ω and/or the boundary operator B from some measurement Mu on the outer boundary Ω. This setting includes in particular inverse scattering problems in acoustics and electromagnetics (in this case Ω is the whole space and the data are far field measurements) and the inverse problem of detecting solids moving in a fluid. It also includes, with slight modifications, more general situations of incomplete data (i.e. measurements on part of the outer boundary) or penetrable inhomogeneities. Our approach to tackle this type of problems is based on the derivation of a series expansion of the input-to-output map of the problem (typically the Dirchlet-to-Neumann map of the problem for the Calderón problem) in terms of the size of the obstacle.