Sensitivity and Noise in THz Electro-Optic Upconversion Radiometers

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This paper presents a study of noise in room-temperature THz radiometers that use THz-to-optical upconversion followed by optical detection of thermal radiation. Despite some undesired upconverted thermal noise, no noise is intrinsically introduced by efficient electro-optic modulation via a sum-frequency-generation process in high quality factor (Q) whispering-gallery mode (WGM) resonators. However, coherent and incoherent optical detection results in fundamentally different noise characteristics. The analysis shows that the upconversion receiver is quantum limited like conventional amplifiers and mixers, only when optical homodyne or heterodyne detection is performed. However, this type of receiver shows advantages as a THz photon counter, where counting is in the optical domain. Theoretical predictions show that upconversion-based room-temperature receivers can outperform state-of-the-art cooled and room-temperature THz receivers based on low-noise amplifiers and mixers, provided that a photon conversion efficiency greater than 1% is realized. Although the detection bandwidth is naturally narrow due to the highly resonant electro-optic modulator, it is not fundamentally limited and can be broadened by engineering selective optical coupling mechanisms to the resonator.



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