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Characterization of Noise Properties in Photodetectors: A Step Toward Ultra-Low Noise Microwaves



Jennifer A. Taylor, Franklyn J. Quinlan, Scott A. Diddams


Very low-noise microwave signals are desirable for many state-of-the-art applications, including many types of radar and imaging systems. However, even state-of-the-art rf oscillator technology for producing signals into the tens of gigahertz range does not generate signals with low enough phase noise for these important systems to work to their full potential. A new approach for achieving microwave signals with ultra-low phase noise involves using an optical frequency divider that has as its reference a narrow-linewidth CW laser. Femtosecond laser frequency combs provide an effective and efficient way to take an ultra-stable optical frequency reference and divide the signal down into the microwave region. In order to convert optical pulses into a usable rf signal, one must use high-speed photodetection; unfortunately, excess phase noise from both technical and fundamental sources can arise in the photodetection process. In order to ultimately minimize the noise effects of the photodetector, we must first characterize some of the known sources for noise inside these devices. In this paper, we will study two sources of excess noise in high-speed photodiodes power-to-phase conversion and shot noise. The noise performance of each device will give us clues as to the nature of the sources, their effect on the output signal, and what design features of the photodiode minimize these noise effects.
Proceedings Title
Proc. 2008 PTTI Conf.
Conference Dates
November 17-19, 2009
Conference Location
Santa Ana Pueblo, NM


photodiode, shot noise, power-to-phase conversion


Taylor, J. , Quinlan, F. and Diddams, S. (2009), Characterization of Noise Properties in Photodetectors: A Step Toward Ultra-Low Noise Microwaves, Proc. 2008 PTTI Conf., Santa Ana Pueblo, NM, [online], (Accessed May 28, 2024)


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Created November 16, 2009, Updated February 19, 2017