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Digital synthetic-heterodyne interferometric demodulation

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2002 J. Opt. A: Pure Appl. Opt. 4 S400


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J. Opt. A: Pure Appl. Opt. 4 (2002) S400–S405 PII: S1464-4258(02)36470-5

Digital synthetic-heterodyne
interferometric demodulation
Michael J Connelly
Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering, University of Limerick,
Limerick, Republic of Ireland


Received 5 April 2002, in final form 16 September 2002

Published 4 November 2002
Online at

Synthetic-heterodyne demodulation is a very useful technique for signal
detection in interferometric sensors. The demodulation process is usually
accomplished using analogue circuits. Improved functionality can be
obtained by using a digital signal processor. In this paper, an expression is
derived for the sensor sensitivity where both laser phase noise and signal
acquisition quantization noise are considered. The demodulation technique
requires modulation of the laser frequency, usually accomplished by
modulation of the laser current. An expression is derived for the
second-harmonic distortion caused by the laser power modulation. The
detection scheme was implemented on a digital signal processor and used to
detect dynamic pressure signals with a bandwidth of 550 Hz.

Keywords: Optical fibre sensor, synthetic-heterodyne, interferometer, digital

signal processing
(Some figures in this article are in colour only in the electronic version)

1. Introduction 2. Theory

Interferometric optical sensors can be used to detect a variety A schematic diagram of the sensor system under consideration
of stimuli including strain, temperature and pressure [1]. The in this paper is shown in figure 1. The output from a frequency-
basic principle is that an applied stimulus causes a phase modulated laser diode is transmitted down an optical fibre
shift between two light beams. Both beams are detected to an external cavity. The fibre end is partially reflective.
simultaneously and converted to an electrical signal, which is The output light from the fibre is collimated by a lens and
then processed to obtain a signal proportional to the stimulus. travels through air for a distance L and then reflected by a
Because the detection process is non-linear, relatively complex flexible membrane, with reflectivity R2  1. As the fibre
techniques must be applied to obtain a linear relationship end reflectivity R1  1, the cavity can be modelled as a two-
between an output electrical signal and the induced phase beam interferometer. If the membrane is displaced, the cavity
shift. Common techniques include pseudo-heterodyne [2], length is changed leading to a phase shift between the two
passive and active homodyne [3] and synthetic-heterodyne [4]. reflected light beams. The reflected light beams travel back
In this paper, we describe a digital implementation of the down the fibre and are detected by a photodiode. The detected
synthetic-heterodyne technique and use it to detect a phase photocurrent is converted to a voltage by a resistive load,
signal from an external cavity with includes a mirror mounted filtered, amplified and passed through an analogue-to-digital
on an accelerometer to simulate a phase disturbance [5]. We converter (ADC). The digital signal is then digitally processed
also derive new equations for the sensor sensitivity and second- using synthetic-heterodyne demodulation to obtain a signal
harmonic distortion (HD2) taking into account laser phase and proportional to the induced dynamic phase shift. This signal
signal quantization noise and laser power modulation. The can be further processed, displayed or converted to an analogue
particular application of the sensor in this study is to detect signal by passing it through a digital-to-analogue converter
dynamic pressure waves such as sound. (DAC) and a low-pass filter. The detected photocurrent can be

1464-4258/02/060400+06$30.00 © 2002 IOP Publishing Ltd Printed in the UK S400

Digital synthetic-heterodyne interferometric demodulation

written as in-phase local oscillators at angular frequencies ω0 and 2ω0

and low-pass filtered (detection bandwidth B) to give
I (t) = A{1 + V cos[θ (t) + φ(t)]} (1)
S1 = AV J1 (C) sin φ(t)
where S2 = AV J2 (C) cos φ(t)
A = R p Pin γ (R1 + R2 ) (2)
where J1 and J2 are Bessel functions of the first kind of order
where R p is the photodiode responsivity, Pin the laser output one and two respectively. Taking the time derivatives of S1
power and γ the fraction of power from the extrinsic cavity and S2 gives
coupler directed to the photodiode. The visibility V is given by
S3 = AV J1 (C)φ̇(t) cos φ(t)
√ (12)
R1 R2
V = . (3) S4 = − AV J2 (C)φ̇(t) sin φ(t).
R1 + R2
Multiplying S1 by S4 and S2 by S3 gives
The visibility is maximized if R1 = R2 . It is assumed that the
reflected light beams have identical polarizations. θ (t) is the S5 = −(AV )2 J1 (C)J2 (C)φ̇(t) sin2 φ(t)
phase difference between the reflected beams due to the optical (13)
S6 = (AV )2 J1 (C)J2 (C)φ̇(t) cos2 φ(t).
carrier frequency and φ(t) the externally induced phase shift.
In the synthetic-heterodyne technique θ (t) is modulated. Subtracting S5 from S6 gives
This modulation can be achieved in many ways but one of
S0 = (AV )2 J1 (C)J2 (C)φ̇(t). (14)
the most convenient is to modulate the laser frequency by am-
plitude modulating the laser drive current. The laser frequency S0 can be integrated to obtain a signal proportional to φ(t). S0
modulation is converted to phase modulation by the non-zero depends on the product J1 (C)J2 (C), which reaches its maxi-
cavity path difference. The instantaneous laser frequency is mum value of 0.22 when C = 2.37. This condition dictates
the magnitude of the modulation current used for a given laser
dν and cavity length.
ν = ν0 + i (t) (4)
where ν0 is the unmodulated laser frequency and i (t) the laser 3. Sensitivity
modulation current. The laser phase is then
 t 3.1. Output noise power
θ (t) = 2π ν(t) dt There are a number of noise sources that limit the sensor
0   sensitivity. In practice receiver dark current noise and
dν t
= 2π ν0 t + i (t) dt . (5) signal shot noise are negligible in comparison with other
dI 0 noise sources. The dominant noise sources are receiver
If sinusoidal modulation is applied to the laser current then thermal noise, laser phase noise induced intensity noise and
quantization noise, which arises when digital signal processing
i (t) = Im cos(ω0 t) (6) is used. The thermal noise current spectral density (A2 Hz−1 )
where Im and ω0 are the laser modulation current amplitude 4kT F
G th = (15)
and angular frequency respectively. Hence (5) becomes RL
  where k is the Boltzmann constant, T temperature, R L the
dν Im
θ (t) = 2π ν0 t + sin(ω0 t) . (7) photodiode load resistance and F the receiver postamplifier
dI ω0 noise figure. An expression for the noise spectral density
of the light intensity from a two-beam interferometer in the
case of a monomode laser source is derived in [6]. Using this
θ (t) ≡ θ (t + τ ) − θ (t) = 2πν0 τ + C cos(ω0 t + θ0 ) (8) expression, it can be easily shown for the setup of figure 1 that
the photocurrent noise spectral density due to the laser phase
where τ = 2L/c is the cavity round-trip time. For ω0 τ < 1 noise is given by
we can make the approximation G p = 8γ 2 R1 R2 τc f (τ/τc )Pin2 R 2p (16)

C ≈ 2π

Im τ where τc is the laser coherence time and f (τ/τc ) is the
dI (9) coherence function [6] given by
θ0 ≈ 0.  
f (τ/τc ) = 1 − exp(−τ/τc ) 1 + (17)
Equation (1) can now be written as
f (τ/τc ) can be approximated by
I (t) = A{1 + V cos[C cos(ω0 t) + φ(t)]}. (10)   2

1 τ , τ  τc
Equation (10) can be expanded into a series of sidebands that f (τ/τc ) ≈ 2 τc (18)

contain the signal of interest φ(t). In synthetic-heterodyne 1, τ  τc
demodulation, the first two sidebands of (10) are mixed with

M J Connelly

dc bias
Modulation current
i (t ) = I m cos ω 0t Isolator Extrinsic cavity
DFB laser R2
Splitter Optical fibre R1 Pressure
I(t) Flexible
Digital L mirror
Optical Output signal
receiver signal
processing proportional to
dynamic pressure

Figure 1. Dynamic pressure sensor system using synthetic heterodyne demodulation.

FIR low-pass
X filter
From Anti-aliasing Cos(w0t)
optical filter ADC
receiver Cos(2w0t)

FIR low-pass
X filter

d output
X to low-pass
dt Amplifier
+ Integrator DAC
dt Reset Range check

Figure 2. Synthetic-heterodyne demodulation digital implementation.

τc is related to the laser spectral linewidth ν by 3.2. Output signal power

1 If the input phase signal φ(t) is sinusoidal with amplitude D
τc = . (19)
ν and angular frequency ωs , then the detected signal power, after
The quantization noise current spectral density is given by integration of S0 , is given by
2 (AV )4 [D J1 (C)J2 (C)]2
V A– D /2 Q S= . (23)
Gq = (20) 2
6Ts R 2L
The sensor signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), from (22) and (23) is
where V A– D and Q are the voltage range and number of bits of
given by
the digital signal processor input ADC. Ts is the sampling time
S [AV J1 (C)D]2
(inverse of the sampling frequency). In (20) it is assumed that SNR ≡ = . (24)
unity strength sampling pulses are used in the ADC quantizer. N ηB
The total current noise spectral density η (single-sided) at The sensor sensitivity can be defined as the phase amplitude
the ADC input is simply the sum of the individual uncorrelated Dmin required for an SNR of unity. From (24) we get
noise spectral densities, i.e. √
η = G th + G p + G q . (21) Dmin = rad Hz−1/2 . (25)
AV J1 (C)
η can be considered to be white noise over the bandwidth of If laser phase noise induced intensity noise is dominant, then
the detection process. It is an elementary but tedious process, Dmin is proportional to the cavity length.
using techniques described in [7], to calculate the output noise
power N after synthetic-heterodyne demodulation. We simply
4. Second-harmonic distortion
state the result here:
[AV J2 (C)]2 η B The laser power varies as the current is modulated. This can
N= . (22) cause phase errors [8]. In synthetic-heterodyne demodulation,

Digital synthetic-heterodyne interferometric demodulation

2.4 kHz local S2


4.8 kHz local

Input to
upper filter

S1 x S4

Input to
lower filter
S2 x S3


Figure 3. Internal signals on the DSP card. The vertical axes are normalized to the maximum signal amplitudes for clarity. The lengths of
the horizontal time axes are 20 ms.

Acquired optical receiver signal Detected phase signal at 100 Hz

Figure 4. Optical receiver output and detected phase signals. The ramping of the phase signal is due to the laser power modulation. The
vertical axes are normalized to the maximum signal amplitudes for clarity. The lengths of the left and right horizontal time axes are 7 and
29 ms respectively.

the laser power variation causes terms proportional to cos φ(t) where
and sin φ(t) to be present in S1 and S2 respectively and d Pin Im
α= . (27)
also terms proportional to φ̇(t) sin φ(t) and φ̇(t) cos φ(t) to dI Pin
be present in S3 and S4 respectively. An advantage of If φ(t) = D cos(ωt) is small compared to unity then (26)
the synthetic-heterodyne technique is that these potentially becomes
degrading terms cancel out when S0 is calculated. There is also S0 = −(AV )2 J1 (C)J2 (C)ω D sin(ωt)
a constant term in S1 , caused by the laser power modulation. α
If this effect is included in the analysis then (14) becomes × 1− D cos(ωt)
2V J1 (C)
= − (AV )2 J1 (C)J2 (C)ω D
α α
S0 = (AV )2 J1 (C)J2 (C)φ̇(t) 1 − sin φ(t) (26) × sin(ωt) − [1 + sin(2ωt )] . (28)
2V J1 (C) 4V J1 (C)

M J Connelly

If S0 is integrated (to retrieve φ(t)) then the constant term written that allows the internal DSP signals to be monitored.
in (28) will give rise to a signal that increases linearly with time. Some of these signals are shown in figure 3. The optical
There is also a second harmonic present in (28), which may receiver output signal and resulting detected phase signal at
interfere with other signals within the demodulation scheme 100 Hz are shown in figure 4. The phase signal is as expected,
detection bandwidth. The HD2 can be defined as the ratio a sinusoid at 100 Hz. The waveform exhibits sharp jumps
between the amplitudes of the fundamental and its second that are due to quantization effects inherent in the sampling
harmonic, i.e. process. These can be removed if the signal is converted to
  an analogue signal and passed through a smoothing low-pass
αD filter. The waveform also has a component that increases
2HD = 20 log dB. (29)
8V J1 (C) slowly with time. As described above, this is caused by
the laser power modulation. In this case phase resets were
5. Digital implementation and experiment required approximately every 5 s, i.e. the reset waveform is
a triangular function with a period of 5 s. This means that
The basic experimental setup is shown in figure 1. A block the lowest frequency that can be detected by the sensor is
diagram of the synthetic-heterodyne demodulation technique approximately 1 Hz (assuming frequency components above
as implemented on a digital signal processor (dSPACE the fifth harmonic of the reset waveform are negligible). Other
DS1102) is shown in figure 2. The output signal from the frequencies, within the detection bandwidth of 550 Hz, were
optical receiver (R L = 1 k ) is passed through a dc blocking successfully detected.
capacitor, anti-aliasing filter (bandwidth equal to ω0 /π + B), The thermal noise limited sensitivity is 0.2 µrad Hz−1/2 .
amplified (so the receiver output signal range is equal to the If a typical laser linewidth of 10 MHz is assumed, the
ADC voltage range) and converted to a digital signal. The theoretical sensitivity (in the absence of quantization noise)
digital signal is then processed using synthetic-heterodyne from (25) is 7.8 µrad Hz−1/2 . The quantization noice
demodulation. The DSP card has a 16-bit ADC and operates at introduced by the 16-bit ADC is for the dominant noise source,
a sampling frequency of 12 kHz. The digital filters are finite- leading to a theoretical sensitivity of 0.49 rad Hz−1/2 . This
impulse response (FIR) filters. Differentiation is approximated theoretical sensitivity was not confirmed experimentally in the
by prototype system. The quantization noise can be reduced to
d f (t) ( fn − f n−1 ) less than the laser phase noise induced intensity noise by the use
≈ (30) of a 32-bit ADC. There is some distortion of the output signal;
dt Ts
however, it was difficult to determine if this is due to additional
where f n and f n−1 are samples of a function f at times t and
reflections from the cavity, the laser power modulation or the
t + Ts . Integration is approximated by
f (t) dt ≈ Ts fj. (31) 6. Conclusions
j =0
A prototype of a digital implementation of the synthetic-
Due to the laser power modulation, there is a dc component heterodyne technique, with a detection bandwidth of 550 Hz,
in the signal prior to integration. This will eventually cause has been demonstrated. Important practical limitations,
an overflow error in the processor. To avoid this problem, including laser phase noise, signal quantization noise, laser
the integrator output is reset to zero if it exceeds its allowed power modulation and second harmonic distortion were
range. If required, the demodulated phase signal can be further analysed.
processed or converted to an analogue signal using a DAC and
smoothing low-pass filter. Acknowledgment
A prototype system was constructed using a temperature-
stabilized DFB laser operating at a bias current of 90 mA, with This work was carried out while the author was a visiting
an output power of 1 mW. The side-mode rejection ratio of the researcher at the European Commission Joint Research Centre
laser was greater than 35 dB and so is a monomode source. (JRC), 21020 Ispra (VA), Italy. The author thanks Dr Maurice
At the bias point chosen, dν/dI = 850 MHz mA−1 . A 10 cm Whelan of the JRC for assistance with the experimental set-up
long external cavity was used. An external low-reflectivity and useful discussions.
mirror mounted on an accelerometer was used to simulate a
flexible reflective membrane. For evaluation purposes, the References
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