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Schematic of an Optical Receiver

   A receiver is generally designed with a transmitter. Both are modules within the same package. The light detection is carried out by a photodiode, which senses light and converts it into an electrical current. However, the optical signal from the fiber-optic cable and the resulting electrical current will have a small amplitude. Consequently, the photodiode circuitry must be followed by one or more amplification stages. There might even be filters and equalizers to shape and improve the information-bearing electrical signal.

  The receiver schematic shows a photodiode, bias resistor circuit, and a low-noise pre-amp. The output of the pre-amp is an electrical waveform version of the original information from the source. To the right of this pre-amp is an additional amplification, filters, and equalizers. All of these components can be on a single integrated circuit, a hybrid, or discretely mounted on a printed circuit board.
  The receiver can incorporate a number of other functions, such as clock recovery for synchronous signaling, decoding circuitry, and error detection and recovery. The receiver must have high sensitivity so that it can detect low-level optical signals coming out of the fiber-optic cable. The higher the sensitivity, the more attenuated signals it can detect. It must have high bandwidth or a fast rise time so that it can respond fast enough and demodulate high-speed digital data. It must have low noise so that it does not significantly impact the BER of the link and counter the interference resistance of the fiber-optic cable transmission medium.
  There are two types of photodiode structures: positive intrinsic negative (PIN) and the avalanche photodiode (APD). In most premise applications, the PIN is the preferred element in the receiver. This is mainly due to fact that it can be operated from a standard power supply, typically between 5 and 15V. APD devices have much better sensitivity. In fact, APD devices have 5 to 10 dB more sensitivity. They also have twice the bandwidth. However, they cannot be used on a 5V printed circuit board. They also require a stable power supply, which increases their cost. APD devices are usually found in long-haul communication links and can increasingly be found in metro-regional networks (because APDs have decreased in cost).
  The demodulation performance of the receiver is characterized by the BER that it delivers to the user. The sensitivity curve indicates the minimum optical power that the receiver can detect compared to the data rate, to achieve a particular BER. The sensitivity curve varies from receiver to receiver. The sensitivity curve considers within it the SNR parameter that generally drives all communications-link performance. The sensitivity depends on the type of photodiode used and the wavelength of operation. Figure shows sensitivity curve examples.


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