Noise Figure

Electrical noise is unwanted alterations to a signal of random amplitude, frequency and phase. Since RADAR is typically done at microwaves frequencies, the noise contribution of most RADAR receivers is highest at the first stages. This is mostly thermal noise (Johnson noise). Each component of a receiver has its own Noise Figure (dB) which is typically kept low through the use of a LNA (Low Noise amplifier). It is important to know that all conductors generate thermal noise when above absolute zero (0K).

Noise Power

Noise Power is the product of Boltzman’s constant, temperature in Kelvin and receiver bandwidth (k*t0*B). This is typically also expressed in dBm. This value is -174 dBm at room temperature  for a 1 Hz bandwidth. If a different receiver bandwidth is present, you can simply add the decibel equivalent of the bandwidth to this value. For example, at a 1MHz bandwidth, the bandwidth ratio is 60 dB (10*log(10^6) = 60). This value can be added to the standard 1Hz bandwidth to arrive at -114 dBm. For a real receiver, this number is scaled by the Noise Figure.


The Noise Figure is defined as 10*log(Na/Ni) where Na is the noise output of an actual receiver and Ni is the noise output of an ideal receiver. Alternatively these can be converted to dB and subtracted. It can also be defined as the rate at which SNR degrades. For systems on earth, Noise Figure is quite useful as temperature tends to stay around 290K (room temperature). However, for satellite communication, the antenna temperature tends to be colder than 290K and therefore effective noise temperature would be used instead.

Noise Factor is the linear equivalent of Noise Figure. For cascaded systems, the noise factor gradually decreases and decreases as shown. This explains why in a receiver chain, the initial components have a much higher effect on the Noise Figure.


Noise Figure is a very important Figure of Merit for detection systems where the input signal strength is unknown. For example, it is necessary to decrease the Noise Figure in the electromagnetic components of a submarine in order to detect communication and RADAR signals.

Dispersion in Optical Fibers

Dispersion is defined as the spreading of a pulse as it propagates through a medium. It essentially causes different components of the light to propagate at different speeds, leading to distortion. The most commonly discussed dispersion in optical fibers is modal dispersion, which is the result of different modes propagating within a MMF (multimode fiber). The fiber optic cable supports many modes because the core is of a larger diameter than SMF (single mode fibers). Single mode fibers tend to be used more commonly now due to decreased attenuation and dispersion over long distances, although MMF fibers can be cheaper over short distances.

Let’s analyze modal dispersion. When the core is sufficiently large (generally the core of a SMF is around 8.5 microns or so), light enters are different angles creating different modes. Because these modes experience total internal reflection at different angles, their speeds differ and over long distances, this can have a huge effect. In many cases, the signal which was sent is completely unrecognizable. This type of dispersion limits the bandwidth of the signal. Often GRIN (graded index) fibers are employed to reduce this type of dispersion by gradually varying the refractive index of the fiber within the core so that it decreases as you move further out. As we have learned, the refractive index directly influences the propagation velocity of light. The refractive index is defined as the ratio of the speed of light to the speed of the medium. In other words, it is inversely proportional to the speed of the medium (in this case silica glass).


In order to mitigate the effects of intermodal distortion in multimode fibers, pulses are lengthened to overlap components of different modes, or even better to switch to Single mode fibers when it is available.

The next type of dispersion is chromatic dispersion. All lasers suffer from this effect because no laser is comprised of a single frequency. Therefore, different wavelengths will propagate at different speeds. Sometimes chirped Bragg gratings are employed to compensate for this effect. Doped fiber lasers and solid state lasers tend to have much thinner linewidths than semiconductor PIN lasers and therefore tend to have less chromatic dispersion, although the semiconductor lasers has several advantages such as lesser cost and smaller size.

Another dispersion type is PMD (Polarization mode dispersion) which is caused by different polarizations travelling at different speeds within a fiber. Generally, these travel at the same speed however spreading of pulses can be caused by imperfections in the material.

For SMF fibers, it is important to cover waveguide dispersion. It is important to note that since the cladding of the fiber is doped differently than the core, the core has a higher refractive index than the cladding (doping with fluorine lowers refractive index and doping with germanium increases it). As we know, a lower refractive index indicates faster speed of propagation. Although most of the light stays within the core, some is absorbed by the cladding. Over long distances this can lead to greater dispersion as the light travels faster in the core leading to different propagation velocities.

RF Over Fiber Links

The basic principle of an RF over Fiber link is to convey a radio frequency electrical signal optically through modulation and demodulation techniques. This has many advantages including reduced attenuation over long distances, increased bandwidth capability, and immunity to electromagnetic interference. In fact, Rf over fiber links are essentially limitless in terms of distance of propagation, whereas coaxial cable transmission lines tend to be limited to 300 ft due to higher attenuation over distance.

The simple RFoF link comprises of an optical source, optical modulator, fiber optic cable and a receiver.


The RF signal modulates the optical signal at its frequency (f_opt) with sidebands at the sum and difference of the RF frequency and optical signal frequency. These beat against the carrier in the photodetector to reproduce and electrical RF signal. The above picture shows amplitude modulation and direct detection method. Also, impedance matching circuitry is generally included to match the ports of the modulator to the demodulator as well as amplifiers.

Before designing an RFoF link, it must be essential to bypass a transmission line in the first place. Will the system benefit from having a lower size and weight or immunity to electromagnetic interference? Is a wide bandwidth required? If not, this sort of link may not be necessary. It also must be determined the maximum SWaP of all the hardware at the two ends of the link. Another important consideration is the temperature that the link will be exposed to (or even pressure, humidity or vibration levels) that the link will be exposed to. The bandwidth of the RF and distance of propagation must be considered, finally.

The Following Figures of Merit can be used to quantify the RFoF link:


In dB, this is defined as the Signal out (in dBm) – Signal in (dBm) or 10log(g) where g is the small signal gain (gain for which the amplitude is small enough that there is no amplitude compression)

Noise Figure

For RADAR and detection systems where the input signal strength is unknown, Noise Figure is more important than SNR. NF is the rate at which SNR degrades from input to output and is given as N_out – kTB – Gain (all in dB scale).

Dynamic Range

It is known that the Noise Floor defines the lower end of dynamic range. The higher end is limited by spurious frequencies or amplitude compression. The difference between the highest acceptable and lowest acceptable input power is the dynamic range.

For example, if defined in terms of full compression, the dynamic range would be (in dB scale) : S_in.max – MDS. where MDS is the minimum detectable signal strength power.

Scattering Parameters

Scattering parameters are frequency dependent parameters that define the loss or gain at various ports. For two port systems, this forms a 2×2 matrix. In most Fiber Optic links, the backwards isolation S_12 is equal to zero due to the functionality of the detectors and modulators (they cannot perform each other’s functions). Generally the return losses at port 2 and 1 are what are specified to meet the system requirements.



Erbium Doped Fiber Amplifiers (EDFA)


The above figure demonstrates the attenuation of optical fibers relative to wavelength. It can be seen that Rayleigh Scattering is more prevalent at higher frequencies. Rayleigh scattering occurs when minute changes in density or refractive index of optical fibers is present due to manufacturing processes. This tends to scatter either in the direction of propagation within the core or not. If it is not, this leads to increased attenuation. This accounts for 96% of attenuation in optical fibers. It can also be noted that lattice absorption varies wildly with the wavelength of light. From the graph, it is apparent that 1550 nm wavelength this value (and also Rayleigh Scattering) is quite low. It is for this reason that 1550 nm is a common wavelength of propagation with silica glass optical fibers. Although this wavelength allows for greater options in design, shorter wavelengths (such as 850 nm) are also used when distance of propagation is short. However, 1550 is the common wavelength due to the development of dispersion shifted fibers as well as something called the EDFA (Erbium doped fiber amplifier).

EDFAs operate around the 1550 nm region (1530 to 1610 nm) and work based on the principle of stimulated emission, in which a photon is emitted within a optical device when another photon causes electrons and holes to recombine. The stimulated emission creates a photon of the same size and in the same direction (coherent light). The EDFA acts as an amplifier, boosting the intensity of light with a heavily doped core (erbium doped). As discussed earlier, the lowest power loss for silica fibers tends to occur at 1550 nm, which is the wavelength that this stimulated emission occurs. The excitation, however, occurs at 980 or 1480 nm, which is shown to have high loss.

The advantages of the EDFA is high gain and availability to operate in the C and L bands of light, It is also not polarization dependent and has low distortion at high frequencies. The major disadvantage is the requirement of optical pumping.


RSoft Tutorials 9. Using Real Materials and Multilayer Structures

Rsoft comes with a number of libraries for real materials. To access these materials, we can add them at any time from the Materials button on the side. However, to build a Multilayer structure that can utilize many materials, select “Multilayer” under 3D Structure Type.


Now, select “Materials…” to add desired materials. Move through the RSoft Libraries to chose a material and use the button in the top right (not the X button, silly) to use the material in the project. Now select OK to be brought back to the Startup Window, where we must now design a layered structure using these materials. Note that while building the layers, you can add more materials.


Selecting “Edit Layers…” on the Startup window brings you to the following window. Here, you can define your layers by selecting “New Layer”. Enter the Height and Material of the layer and select “Accept Layer” and repeat the process until the structure is finished. Select OK when done and select OK on the Startup window if all other settings are complete. This is my structure. Note that my structure size adds up to 1. Remember what the size of your layers are.


Now, design the shape of the structure. I’ve made a rectangular waveguide. What is also important to consider is where the beam should enter the structure. By default, the beam is focused across the entire structure. In the case where a particular layer is meant to be a waveguide, this should be reduced in size. By remembering the sizes of the layers however it will not be difficult to aim the beam at a particular section of the waveguide. For my structure, I will aim my beam at the 0.2 GaInAsP layer. The positioning, width, height, angle and more of the launch beam can be edited in the “Launch Parameters” window, accessible through “Launch Fields” on the right side.


Finally, run a simulation with your structure!










Rsoft Tutorials 8. Air Gaps

There are cases where you may want to simulate a region of air in between two components. A simple way of approaching this task is by creating a region with the same refractive index as air. The segment between the two waveguides (colored in gray) will serve as the “air” region. Right-click on the segment to define properties and under “Index Difference”, chose the value to be 1 minus the background index.


Properties for the segment:


Symbol Table Editor:


Notice that in the “air” region, the pathway monitor detects the efficiency to be zero, though the beam reconvenes in the waveguide, if the gap is short and the waveguide continues at the same angle, but with losses.



Rsoft Tutorials 7. Index Grating

Index grating is a common method to alter the frequency characteristics of light. In Rsoft, a graded index component is found under the “Index Taper” tab when right-clicking on a component. By selecting the tab “Tapers…”, one can create a new index taper.


Here, the taper is called “User 1” and defined by an equation step(M*z), with z being the z-coordinate location.


Selecting “Test” on the User Taper Editor will plot the index function of the tapered component:


The index contour is plotted below:


Here, the field pattern:


Light contour plot:



Rsoft Tutorials 6. Multiple Launch Fields, Merging Parts

Launch Fields define where light will enter a photonic device in Rsoft CAD. An example that uses multiple launch fields is the beam combiner.




On the sidebar, select “Edit Launch Fields”. To add a new lauch, select New and chose the pathway. A waveguide will be selected by default. Moving the launch to a new location however will place it elsewhere. Input a parameter other than “default” to change the location, and other beam parameters.


Choosing “View Launch” will plot the field amplitude of the launches. For the plot below, the third launch was removed.


Merging Waveguides

Right-clicking on the structure will give the option to chose the “Combine Mode.” Be sure that Merge is selected to allow waveguides to combine.



The Pockels Effect and the Kerr Effect

The Electro-optic effect essentially describes the phenomena that, with an applied voltage, the refractive index of a material can be altered. The electro-optic effect lays the ground for many optical and photonic devices. One such application would be the electro-optic modulator.

If we consider a waveguide or even a lens, such as demonstrated through problems in geometrical optics, we know that the refractive index can alter the direction of propagation of a transmitted beam. A change in refractive index also changes the speed of the wave. The change of light propagation speed in a waveguide acts as phase modulation. The applied voltage is the modulated information and light is the carrier signal.

The electro-optic effect is comprised of both a linear and non-linear component. The full form of the electro-optic effect equation is as follows:


The above formula means that, with an applied voltage E, the resultant change in refractive index is comprised of the linear Pockels Effect rE and a non-linear Kerr Effect PE^2.

The Pockels Effect is dependent on the crystal structure and symmetry of the material, along with the direction of the electric field and light wave.



Rsoft Tutorials 5. Pathway Monitoring (BeamPROP)

When stringing multiple parts together, it is important to check a lightwave system for losses. BeamPROP Simulator, part of the Rsoft package will display any losses in a waveguide pathway. Here we have an example of an S-bend simulation. There appears to be losses in a few sections.


Here, the design for the S-bend waveguide has a few locations that are leaking, as indicated by the BeamPROP simulation.


The discontinuities are shown below, which are a possible source of loss:


After fixing these discontinuities, the waveguide can be simulated again using BeamPROP. In fact the losses are not fixed. This loss is called bending loss.



Bending loss is an important topic for wavguides and becomes critical in Photonic Integrated Circuits (PIC).

Rsoft Tutorials 4. Multi-Layer Profiles

Rsoft has the ability to create multilayered devices, as was done previously using ATLAS/TCAD. Rather than defining a structures through scripts as is done with ATLAS, information about the layers can be defined in tables that are accessed in Rsoft CAD.


To begin adding layers to a device, such as a waveguide, first draw the device in Rsoft CAD. To design a structure with a substrate and rib waveguide, select Rib/Ridge 3D Structure Type in the Startup Window.


Next, design the structure in Rsoft CAD.


The Symbol Table Editor is needed now not only to define the size of the waveguide, but also the layer properties. The materials for this waveguide will be defined simply using basic locally defined layers with a user-defined refractive index. Later, we will discuss importing layer libraries to use real materials.To get used to the parameters typically needed for this exercise, layer properties may not need to be defined now before entering the Layer Table Editor.


The Layer Table Editor is found on the Rsoft CAD sidebar. First, assign the substrate layer index and select new later. The layer name, index and height are defined for this exercise.


After layers have been chosen, the mode profile can be simulated.



Rsoft Tutorials 3. Fiber Structures and BeamPROP Simulation Animations

An interesting feature of BeamPROP simulations and other simulators in the Rsoft packages is that the simulation results can be displayed in a running animation. The following simulation is the result of a simulation of an optical fiber. BeamPROP simulates the transverse field in an animation as a function of the z parameter, which is the length of the optical fiber.

fiberBeamPROP sim

To design an optical fiber component with Rsoft CAD, select under 3D structure type, “Fiber” when making a new project.


To build a cylinder that will be the optical fiber, select the cylinder CAD tool (shown below) and use the tool to draw in the axis that the base of the cylinder is found.


Dimensions of the fiber can be specified using the symbol tool discussed previously and by right-clicking the object to assign these values. Note that animations of mode patterns through long waveguides is not only available for cylindrical fibers. Fibers may consist of a variety of shapes. Multiple pathways may be included. Simulations can indicate if a waveguide has potential leaks in it or the interaction of light with a new surface.




Rsoft Tutorials 2. Simulating a Waveguide using BeamPROP and Mode Profile

BeamPROP is a simulator found in the Rsoft package. Here, we will use BeamPROP to calculate the field distributions of our tapered waveguides. Other methods built withing Rsoft CAD are will also be explored.


Tapered Waveguide

The tapered waveguide that we are simulating is found below. We will use the BeamPROP tool to simulate the field distributions in the waveguide. We will also use the mode calculation tool to simulate the mode profile at each end of the waveguide.

BeamPROP Simulation Results


Rsoft CAD


Mode Profile Simulation

The mode simulation tool is found on the sidebar:


Before choosing the parameters of the Mode Simulator, let’s first take a look at the coordinates of the beginning and end of the waveguide. This dialog is found by right-clicking on the component. The window shows that the starting point along the z axis is 1 and the ending point is 43 (the units are actually micrometers, by the way). We will choose locations along the waveguide close to the ends of the waveguide at z equals 1.5 and 42.5.


Parameter selection window:


Results at z = 1.5:


Results at z = 42.5:


Rsoft Tutorials 1. Getting Started with CAD (tapered waveguide)

Rsoft is a powerful tool for optical and photonic simulations and design. Rsoft and Synopsys packages come with a number of different tools and simulators, such as BeamPROP, FullWAVE and more. There are also other programs typically found with Rsoft such a OptoDesigner, LaserMOD and OptSim. Here we focus on the very basics of using the Rsoft CAD environment. I am using a student version, which is free for all students in the United States.

New File & Environment

When starting a new file, the following window is opened. We can select the simulation tools needed, the refractive index of the environment (“background index”) and other parameters. Under dimensions, “3D” is selected.


The 3D environment is displayed:


Symbol Editor


On the side bar, select “Edit Symbols.” Here we can introduce a new symbol and assign it a value using “New Symbol,” filling out the name and expression and selecting “Accept Symbol.”









Building Components

Next we will draw a rectangle, which will be our waveguide.  Select the rectangular segment below:


Now, select the bounds of the rectangle. See example below:


Editing Component Parameters

Right click on the component to edit parameters. Here, we will now change the refractive index and the length of the component. The Index Difference tab is the difference in refractive index compared to the background index, which was defined when we created the file. We’ll set it to 0.1 and since our background index was 1.0, that means the refractive index of the waveguide is 1.1. Alternatively, the value delta that was in the box may be edited from the Symbol menu. We also want to use our symbol “Length” to define the length of our waveguide. We also want this waveguide to be tapered, so the ending vertex will be set to width*4. Note that width may also be edited in the symbol list.


Here, we have a tapered waveguide:


Methods of Calculation for Signal Envelope

The envelope of a signal is an important concept. When a signal is modulated, meaning that information is combined with or embedded in a carrier signal, the envelope follows the shape of the signal on it’s upper and lower most edges.

There are a number of methods for calculating an envelope. When given an in-phase and quadrature signal, the envelope is defined as:

E = sqrt(I^2  + Q^2).

This envelope, if plotted will contain the exact upper or lower edge of the signal. An exact envelope may be sought, depending on the level of detail required for the application.

Here, this data was collected as a return from a fiber laser source. We seek to identify this section of the data to determine if the return signal fits the description out of a number of choices. The exact envelope using the above formula is less useful for the application.

The MATLAB formula is used to calculate the envelope:

[upI, lowI] = envelope(I,x,’peak’);

And this is plotted below with the I and Q signals:


Here are two envelopes depicted without the signal shown. By selecting the range of interpolation, this envelope can be smoother. Typically it is less desirable for an envelope to contain so many carrier signals, as is the following where x=1000, the range of interpolation.


Further methods involving the use of filters may also be of consideration. Below, the I and Q signals are taken through a bandpass filter (to ensure that the data is from the desired frequency range) and finally a lowpass filter is applied to the envelope to remove higher frequency oscillation.