December 12, 2015

Noise Can’t Hide Weak Signals From This New Receiver

Schematic of single-event noise discrimination using the spectral cloning receiver.
Image credit: Photonics Systems Group at UC San Diego.

(December 12, 2015)  Electrical engineers at the University of California, San Diego developed a receiver that can detect a weak, fast, randomly occurring signal. The study, published in the Dec. 11 issue of Science, lays the groundwork for a new class of highly sensitive communication receivers and scientific instruments that can extract faint, non-repetitive signals from noise. The advance has applications in secure communication, electronic warfare, signal intelligence, remote sensing, astronomy and spectroscopy.

The research is motivated by a long-standing need to capture random, singly-occurring phenomena in nature and in communications. An example of these includes the spontaneous decay of a molecule, an event that emits a single noisy signal and therefore eludes detection by conventional methods. Because a standard detector must repeat measurements of the event multiple times to confirm its existence, it prevents, in principle, the capture of a random, non-repetitive event. Another limitation is that the capture of a fast event requires an equally fast detector.

To overcome the limitations of conventional detection methods, UC San Diego researchers developed a spectral-cloning receiver that works by replicating the received noisy signal to generate multiple spectral (colored) copies, and then combines these copies to reveal the existence of the signal within the noise.

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