The inverse scattering problem for inhomogeneous media amounts to inverting a locally compact nonlinear operator, thus presenting difficulties in arriving at a solution. Initial efforts to deal with the nonlinear and ill-posed nature of the inverse scattering problem focused on the use of nonlinear optimization methods. Although efficient in many situations, their use suffers from the need for strong a priori information in order to implement such an approach. In addition, recent advances in material science and nanostructure fabrications have introduced new exotic materials for which full reconstruction of the constitutive parameters from scattering data is challenging or even impossible. In order to circumvent these difficulties, a recent trend in inverse scattering theory has focused on the development of new methods, in which the amount of a priori information needed is drastically reduced but at the expense of obtaining only limited information of the scatterers. Such methods come under the general title of qualitative approach in inverse scattering theory; they yield mathematically justified and computationally simple reconstruction algorithms by investigating properties of the linear scattering operator to decode non-linear information about the scattering object. In this spirit, a possible approach is to exploit spectral properties of operators associated with scattering phenomena which carry essential information about the media. The identified eigenvalues must satisfy two important properties: 1) can be determined from the scattering operator, and 2) are related to geometrical and physical properties of the media in an understandable way.
In this talk we will discuss some old and new eigenvalue problems arising in scattering theory for inhomogeneous media. We will present a two-fold discussion: on one hand relating the eigenvalues to the measurement operator (to address the first property) and on the other hand viewing them as the spectrum of appropriate (possibly non-self-adjoint) partial differential operators (to address the second property). Numerical examples will be presented to show what kind of information these eigenvalues, and more generally the qualitative approach, yield on the unknown inhomogeneity.