PerspectiveSignal Processing

Matched filtering of ultrashort pulses

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Science  11 Dec 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6266, pp. 1314-1315
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad7804

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The need to detect a small signal obscured by a large amount of noise is like the problem Prince Charming faced in his search for Cinderella. Fortunately, he had the magic glass slipper that perfectly fit only her. In signal detection and estimation theory, such a magic glass slipper that perfectly fits only the signal of interest is called a “matched filter.” Because every change in the signal shape requires a change of the matched filter, it would be highly advantageous for the filter to be dynamically reconfigured according to the expected signal. For ultrashort (<100 ps) electrical signals that are near the limits of today's electronics, such reconfigurable matched filters become extremely challenging to make. On page 1343 of this issue, Ataie et al. (1) show how optical signal processing could help to achieve this goal. They demonstrate the detection of a single 80-ps pulse in the presence of a large amount of noise by converting electrical signals to optical signals and subsequently approximating the matched filter with a potentially reconfigurable optical scheme.