Researchers at the University of Twente have developed a revolutionary programmable integrated microwave photonic filter. This represents a major breakthrough in the integration of new communication technologies, like 6G for example, writes the university in a press release.

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Photonica technology is going to bring more and more innovations in the coming years. That is why the editors of Innovation Origins keep a close eye on developments in this field.

The research shows that the filter can play a key role in modern radio frequency and microwave applications. It also has a record-breaking dynamic range.The researchers used a special tool – a so-called modulation transformer – to adjust the strength and timing of light waves and radio frequency signals. This enables enhancement of the chip noise and dynamic range performance. By combining these elements in a single microwave photonics circuit, the team was able to demonstrate a filter with an ultra-high dynamic range, comparable to the noise levels between complete silence and a rock concert.

“Our work breaks the conventional and fragmented approach of integration, functionality and performance that currently prevents the adoption of these photonic systems in real applications”, says Prof Dr David Marpaung, one of the authors of the study. “Traditional radio frequency filters can only work in a narrow frequency range, meaning you need several separate filters for broadband operation. Our device is integrated, broadband, and has an enormous dynamic range, making it possible to use just a single photonic circuit for various frequency ranges.”


Before this discovery, programmable microwave photonic circuits with such advanced functions had poor performance. To prevent this, the researchers employ programmable resonators and interferometers to reduce the impact of noise and nonlinear distortion together while at the same time providing a large number of filtering functions. “Solving the noise figure and dynamic range problem is one of the hardest challenges in microwave photonics. This breakthrough proves that integrated microwave photonics can indeed achieve very high performance. This will help the adoption of this technology in next-generation communication systems (6G) and satellite communications, for example.”

This research was recently published as an article in the journal Nature Communications.

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