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Istanbul Technical University, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering
80191 Gumussuyu, Istanbul, TURKEY

It is inevitable that measured signals are contaminated with noise when a data acquisition
system is used for an experimental measurement. It is also well known in modal testing that the
quality of measured Frequency Response Functions (FRFs) is adversely affected by noise
originating from test environment as well as electronic devices. This situation often leads to
serious difficulties in many applications as they require high quality FRF data. This paper
presents a new method based on Singular Value Decomposition (SVD) for the elimination of
noise from measured FRFs so as to improve the quality of the measured data. It is believed that
method will enhance the accuracy as well as the success rate of various applications that rely on
measured FRFs.
Measured Frequency Response Functions (FRFs) are used for many purposes including:
verification of the theoretical models, model updating, structural modification, determination of
excitation forces, fault detection as well as solving general vibration and noise problems. Apart
from a few exceptions, it is extremely desirable to acquire high quality data from vibration tests
for many areas of applications. In fact, high quality FRF data are demanded in almost any
application involving matrix inversion and/or differencing operation. However, there are some

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed

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unavoidable experimental errors and error sources originating from the experimental set-up itself
[1-4]. One of the unavoidable error sources that reduce the quality of the measured FRFs
significantly is the so-called noise. The nature of the contamination categorized as noise is
rather complex as the contributing factors are diverse and complicated. Some of the dominant
noise sources are thought to originate from test environment including non-linear effects,
extraneous structural noise as well as noise in electronic devices. Some practical examples that
might contribute to the contamination of the measured data are: (i) nearby equipments such as air
conditioners, elevators and pumps, particularly when they are turned on and off, (ii) radio
stations, computers and other electronic equipments creating noise in all practical frequency
ranges, (iii) the AC power line contributing noise to measured data usually at 50 or 60 Hz, (iv) the
loose connections and twine of the transduction cables. As a result, creating a noise-free
measurement environment is seldom practical. Although there are simple techniques such as
averaging, filtering and shielding for reducing noise levels during the measurement process as
well as the use of different FRF estimators for system identification purposes, e.g. such as H1 and
H2, it is impossible to perform noise-free measurements. In many applications, especially for
those using the measured FRFs directly, the level of noise in the measured data determines the
reliability and the success of the analyses. It is therefore highly desirable to eliminate or minimise
these contaminations from measured FRFs [46] before they are used for further applications.
The effect of noisy data on the success of many applications using measured FRFs has been an
important subject of search in vibration engineering. Pickrel [7] focused on the assessment of the
quality of the data and used the singular value decomposition (SVD) technique to estimate the
effects of frequency band, number of measurement locations and signal to noise ratio in measured
response data. Various improved techniques, usually based on SVD, have been developed to

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reduce the vulnerability of individual applications to noisy FRFs including; modal parameter
estimations [8-10], structural coupling/modification where reliable inversion of a matrix is
required [11-16], model updating where model parameters are adjusted using modal or FRF data
[17] and optimum test planning for modal testing [18]. It is interesting to note, however, that the
subject of elimination/minimisation of noise from measured FRFs has not attracted enough
attention that it deserves. It is believed that minimising the noise content in FRFs after the
measurements are made can significantly improve the quality of the measured data, hence can
increase the reliability and the success rate of many applications that rely on measured FRFs. An
earlier work done by the authors of this paper [19] concentrated on the elimination of noise from
a set of measured FRFs by utilising SVD technique. The effectiveness of the method was
illustrated using a simulated test case where additive and multiplicative types of noise were added
to otherwise clean data. It was found that the method was fairly successful although there were
some. It is also worth mentioning that the method in [19] required the use of multiple FRFs and
the effectiveness was dependent on the number of FRFs used during the noise elimination
This current paper is an extension of the authors previous work and presents a new method
for the elimination of noise from measured FRFs. The method presented in this paper eliminates
all the drawbacks and limitations of the previous work in the sense that a single FRF can be
processed and, more importantly, it works in practice as demonstrated experimentally. This is
achieved by utilising the Hankel matrix theory combined with SVD decomposition as described
in the next section. To the best of authors knowledge this paper is the first employing this
approach for noise elimination from measured FRFs.

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The starting point for the new method presented here is a single FRF. Let Hpq()={Hpq (1),
Hpq (2), , Hpq (L)} be measured FRF relating the response co-ordinate p to the excitation coordinate q at LIUHTXHQF\SRLQWV DQGOHWLWEHGHQRWHGDVHpq() =H={H1, H2, H3, , HL} for
brevity. The FRF data can be sequentially filled to form a complex Hankel matrix as:

[ A] m xn = 2

H m

H m +1

L H n
L H n +1



where m+n-1=L and Aij=Hi+j-1. An alternative to Eq.(1), the Hankel matrix can also be formed
using the Impulse Response Function (IRF) denoted by hpq(t)=h={h1, h2, h3, , hs} where IRF is
the inverse Fourier Transform of H, i.e., h=FT-1(H) and s = 2L. In this case the Hankel matrix is
real and of the form:

[ A] mxn

= 2



L hn
L hn +1

L hs


where a similar relationship holds, i.e., m+n-1=s and Aij=hi+j-1 although the size is doubled. It
should be noted Hankel matrix is also utilised elsewhere in speech and audio applications as well
as for signal estimation from noisy data, [20-25].
It is shown later in the paper that the performance of the noise elimination method is affected
depending on whether H or h is used in constructing the Hankel matrix. However, unless stated

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otherwise, the rest of the formulation is independent of which type of the system property is used,
hence the notations in Eq.(2) are used without any loss of generality.
It is known that the SVD is a very powerful tool in linear matrix theory, and has been used
extensively in many fields of engineering [20-27], in particular as a means of estimating the rank
of rectangular matrices [28-30]. SVD technique is also utilised in this paper primarily for the
estimation of the rank of the matrix [A] in the process of noise elimination from measured FRFs.
SVD of an mxn matrix [A] is given by;
[ A] mxn = [U ] mxm [] mxn [V ]Tnxn


where [U] and [V] are orthogonal matrices, [] is the real diagonal matrix whose diagonal
elements i are called as singular values of [A] and []T denotes transpose of a matrix ([]T should
be interpreted as complex conjugate transpose if the matrix is complex). Singular values are
assumed to be arranged in descending order without any loss of generality, i.e.,

1 2 L R 0 , R = min{m, n}. The matrix [A] is said to be singular if one or more of the
last singular values are zero or nearly singular when one or more of them arHEHORZDWKUHVKROG 
. Theoretically, the number of non-zero singular values, r, determine the rank of this matrix, i.e.,
i > ;

i = 1, ... , r

i ;

i = r + 1, ... , R


When the matrix [A] contains measured FRFs (or its time-domain counterpart IRF)
contaminated with noise, it can reasonably be assumed that the limit for the rank of [A] will be
due to noise and other errors in the measured data. This leads to expressing the matrix [A] as

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[ A] = [ A ] + [ N ] = [U r

U 0 ] r

0 VrT

0 V0T


where [ A ] and [N] represent uncontaminated data and noise matrices respectively, r contains
significant singular values (i , i=1, , r) representing uncontaminated data space and 0
contains small singular values below a threshold (i , i=r+1, , R) representing the noise space.

The properties of the singular values mentioned above is utilised in this paper to separate the
meaningful data from noise in measured FRF or IRF. First, r is estimated by careful examination
of the relative values of singular values. Then, i are set to zero for i>r and finally an estimate of
noise-free matrix [ A ] is calculated by using only the first r columns of [U], [] and [V], i.e.,

[ A ] = [U r ][ r ][Vr ]T


Essentially, the rank is an indicator of the number of independent characteristics in the data.
However, the main problem in practice is the estimation of the noise threshold , i.e., the effective
rank of the matrix [A]. One way to overcome this problem is to plot the normalised singular
values and to choose the appropriate rank when the normalized singular values approach an
asymptote [7, 10], an approach which is also adopted in this paper. Once the rank of [A] is
established, signal to noise ratio can also be estimated [7, 27, 29] as

SNR = i /
i =1

i = r +1


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It should be noted that the elimination of small singular values from [A] results in a matrix
[ A ] which is of non-Hankel form. Consequently, the content of the matrix [ A ] needs to be
transformed back to a vector form so as to obtain the uncontaminated data. This is achieved by
arithmetic averaging along the anti-diagonals of [ A ]. If the IRF vector h of length s is used to
construct the [A] matrix the ith element of the noise-free IRF vector h can be reconstructed as:

hi =

Ai j +1, j
k l + 1 j =l


where l=max(1, i-m+1) and k = min(n, i). Then the vector h is transformed back to the frequency
domain via Fourier Transform, i.e., H =FT( h ). However, if the FRF vector H of length L is used
to construct the [A] matrix, the filtered FRF can be reconstructed directly as

Hi =

Ai j +1, j
k l + 1 j =l


where l=max(1, i-m+1) and k = min(n, i).


It is worth restating that the proposed method is applicable whether FRF or IRF is used while
constructing the matrix [A] for the elimination of noise from measured FRF. It may seem at first
sight, however, that using IRF requires both inverse Fourier Transform (FT-1) and then Fourier
Transform (FT) in order to obtain a filtered FRF, hence introducing unnecessary computations

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compared to using FRF data directly. After performing extensive assessment of these two
alternatives, it has been found that this argument is not justified. In other words, using IRF via
inverse FT as a starting point seems to provide superior performance than utilising FRF directly.
The reason for this can be explained by comparing the performance of these two alternatives in
identifying the noise threshold, , in terms of the singular values of the [A] matrix, this threshold
being the key factor in establishing the effective rank of the system hence, for the separation of
the meaningful data from noise. The actual noise threshold to be used in practice for noise
elimination requires close inspection of the distribution of singular values as demonstrated in the
remaining parts of paper. For the purpose of demonstrating the concept, typical distributions of
singular values obtained using two approaches mentioned above, i.e., FRF or IRF, are presented
in Fig.1. These results are based on measured data. Other results, not presented here, also show
similar trend, suggesting that using IRF leads to easier identification of the rank of the system and
offers better performance for noise elimination. Therefore, without any loss of generality, and for
the sake of brevity, the forthcoming sections address the approach based on IRF only.
Another important aspect of the method is related to the size of the Hankel matrix and it
deserves special attention. For a given data with a sample number of N, a square or a nearly
square Hankel matrix can be constructed. However, it is neither necessary nor desirable to
construct a square or nearly square Hankel matrix for practical applications of the method.
Instead, a rectangular matrix with appropriate selection of the smaller dimension can be used
effectively, provided that the smaller dimension, i.e., the maximum possible rank, is large enough
to represent the system behaviour including the effect of noise. The reason for this is that nearly
square Hankel matrix may require unnecessary computations while inadequate setting of the
maximum possible rank of the system may cause loss of performance. It is expected that if the

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dimensions of the Hankel matrix are set properly small singular values will approach an
asymptote, otherwise not. This is demonstrated in Fig.2 where a IRF with a fixed sample number
is processed to obtain singular values corresponding to different settings of the smaller dimension
(referred to as column size here) of the rectangular Hankel matrix. It is seen that if the number of
columns is less than the rank of the system, the Hankel matrix will not be capable of representing
the system; hence it will not be possible to detect/identify the noise threshold. On the other hand,
appropriate settings of the matrix dimensions lead to an asymptote that in turn leads to the
identification of the noise threshold. It is obvious that a square or nearly square Hankel matrix is
preferred if the computation cost is not an issue. However, there may well be a need for using a
smaller number of columns, especially for processing large number of FRFs measured on the
same system. In these situations, a suitable number of columns and the effective rank can be
determined by examining a few FRFs with different matrix dimensions and the same settings can
be applied for the rest of FRFs. It is also worth mentioning that the rank of the Hankel matrix is
related to the number of modes affecting the measured data, i.e., number of modes within the
frequency range of interest plus the number of residual modes. In fact, it has been found that the
rank, i.e., the number of singular values greater than the noise threshold, is expected to be twice
the number of modes influencing the FRF when IRF is used in the formulation.

This is

demonstrated in Fig.3 using a lumped parameter model with 10 degrees-of-freedoms where a

FRF including all the modes is generated, noise is artificially added and normalised singular
values are plotted. It is seen that the distribution of singular values shows an asymptote after the
20th singular values (twice the number of modes), the rest of which represent noise. This
provides some guidelines, suggesting that the smaller dimension of the Hankel matrix (number of
columns here) should be about an order of magnitude greater than twice the number of modes

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influencing the FRF for successful application of the method. In what follows, the applicability
of the method is demonstrated using both simulated as well as measured data.


The results presented in this section are based on a numerical simulation in the sense that the
FRFs are generated theoretically using the modal data obtained from a 3-dimensional Finite
Element model of a structure and noise is artificially added to otherwise clean FRFs. The modal
data contained 14 modes in addition to the rigid body modes. FRFs were generated within a
frequency range containing the first 5 non-rigid body modes, but including all the residual effects
represented by other modes in the modal data. The noisy FRFs referred to as measured in this
section are simulated by numerically adding additive white noise or multiplicative noise to the
real and imaginary parts of the exact (noise-free) FRFs. The additive white noise is scaled such
that its mean deviation is the stated percentage of the mean magnitude of the individual FRF. On
the other hand, multiplicative noise is simulated by multiplying the real and imaginary parts of
each FRF with random numbers, the mean deviation of which is the stated percentage of the
mean magnitude of the noise-free FRF. As stated before, an individual FRF was first transformed
into time-domain using inverse FT yielding the corresponding IRF with a sample size of 2046 for
this particular example. This could lead to a nearly square Hankel matrix with a maximum
column number of 1023. However, it was found that Hankel matrix with 200 columns was
satisfactory in this case. Figs.4 and 5 show normalized singular values corresponding to a
particular FRF with different levels of additive and multiplicative noise, respectively. It is seen
that identification of the noise threshold is quite straightforward when the noise is of additive type
although it is not so obvious if the noise is of multiplicative type. This is not surprising since the

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multiplicative noise has a degree of systematic error nature; hence it is the most difficult noise
type to eliminate. In the case of additive noise, the rank of the system is set to 12 and the filtered
IRF and then FRF are computed. The results presented in Fig.6 show excellent performance.
The situation in the case of multiplicative noise, however, is somewhat complicated due to the
reasons mentioned above. The noise threshold should be chosen with extra caution in this case as
inadequate selection can easily result in loss of meaningful data. If the noise threshold is set to a
value that is too small, less amount of noise is eliminated. On the other hand, if it is too large,
valuable information might be lost. Fig.7 presents results corresponding to 5% and 10%
multiplicative noise levels, the rank being set to 30 in both cases. The method can be considered
fairly successful again although some level of noise still remains and the FRF data around
antiresonances are adversely affected by some degree. Fortunately, this type of noise does not
seem to be so common in reality.


The performance of the proposed method is also investigated using real measurements. As the
application of the method requires only the FRF data, experimental results are presented here
without detailed description of the test structure or the experimental set-up.
The noise elimination method is applied to the measured FRF presented in Fig.8a showing
visible level of noise. This particular FRF was measured using a free-free L-shaped plate that has
15 modes within the frequency range 0-400 Hz. A Hankel matrix with 400 columns was formed
and singular values presented in Fig.8b were obtained. As can be seen, the amplitudes of the
singular values level off around 50th singular value which is a clear indication of the noise

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threshold as well as the effective rank of this FRF. Fig.8c compares filtered FRF with the raw
data demonstrating the success of the method.
Second example is a measured FRF of a cantilever plate, frequency range being 0 to 800 Hz
with 1 Hz increment. The normalized singular values in Fig.9a were obtained by forming a
Hankel matrix with a column size of 300.

The distribution of the singular values Fig.9a is a

good example to demonstrate the fact that effective rank of the data matrix may not be so
obvious. In these cases, the best approach could be trying a few possible candidates and then
deciding the rank. The particular filtered FRF presented in Fig.9b, where both modulus and phase
information are plotted, were obtained by setting the rank to 47 and results can be considered
excellent again. The noise is effectively eliminated.
The measured and the filtered FRFs in Fig. 10 belong to a fan casing and the distribution of the
singular values for this case is already presented in Fig.2 in order to illustrate the effect of the
number of columns when forming the Hankel matrix. The comparison of the raw and the filtered
FRFs shows once again that method works effectively in the case of measured data too.

A new method has been proposed in this paper for the removal of noise from measured
Frequency Response Functions (FRF). The method can be applied to FRF directly, or its timedomain counterpart - Impulse Response Function (IRF) - although the second alternative appears
to provide superior performance. When noise is to be removed from IRF, the steps involved can
be summarised as: (i) conversion of the FRF into IRF, (ii) formation of a Hankel type matrix
containing IRF data, (iii) utilizing SVD technique for the assessment of the data quality and

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removing noise and (iv) transformation of the processed IRF back to the frequency-domain so as
to obtain filtered FRF.
The method has been applied to both simulated and experimental data in order to assess the
effectiveness in eliminating the noise content. It has been found that the method is very effective
in both cases in the sense that the noise level after the filtering process is much lower than that of
the original data. It is therefore concluded that the noise removal method presented in this paper
can be used to provide more reliable data to other applications that require high quality data in the
form of FRFs. Finally, it should be noted that valuable information in the data might be lost if the
effective rank of the system is not set properly. In case the distribution of the singular values of
the system does not provide reliable guidance, a possible way of avoiding this danger is to repeat
the analysis a few times with different levels of noise threshold until acceptable results are
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Figure1. Comparison of normalized singular values of matrix [A] using FRF and IRF approaches.
(based on measured data on fan casing)

Figure 2. Distribution of normalized singular values corresponding to Hankel matrices with

different number of columns (Based on measured data).

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Figure 3. Normalized singular values corresponding to a FRF with10% additive noise. (Based on
10 DOF lumped parameter model. Frequency range covers all the modes).

Figure 4. Normalized singular values corresponding to a particular FRF with additive noise.
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Figure 5. Normalized singular values corresponding to a particular FRF with multiplicative noise.

Figure 6a . A noisy FRF and the corresponding IRF (10% additive noise).

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Figure 6b. Comparison of measured and filtered FRF (10% additive noise).

Figure 6c. Comparison of exact and filtered FRF (10% additive noise)

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Figure 7a. Comparison of measured and filtered FRF (5% multiplicative noise).

Figure 7b. Comparison of measured and filtered FRF (10% multiplicative noise)

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Figure 8a. A measured FRF of an L-Plate.

Figure 8b. Normalized singular values for a FRF of an L-Plate.

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Figure 8c. Comparison of measured and filtered FRF of an L-Plate.

Figure 9a. Normalized singular values for a FRF of a cantilever plate.

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Figure 9b. Comparison of measured and corrected FRFs of a cantilever plate.

Figure 10. Comparison of measured and filtered FRF of a fan cover.

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