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Working in the Basement: Measuring Signals Below the Noise Floor with a Lock-In Amplifier

Author: Shimon Elstein, Senior Physicist, Ophir
Friday, September 15, 2017
Measuring optical signals in the femtowatt (10-15) to nanowatt (10-9) range can be a daunting task. Signal levels this low are lost in typical detector noise levels and swamped by background light. The noise floor for photodiode detectors operated with a small bandwidth (~10 Hz) is on the order of 1 picowatt (10-12). In order to achieve significant improvements in noise rejection we need to turn to a lock-in amplifier. Lock-in amplifiers can improve noise rejection by 3 orders of magnitude or more.
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