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Transimpedance Amplifiers for Photodiodes
Switchable Gain: 1, 10, or 100 MV/A
Gain: 1 kV/A
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The voltage offset adjuster and polarity switch are located on the output BNC connector end.
Thorlabs' AMP Series of Transimpedance Amplifiers are designed to amplify the output signal from unmounted or mounted photodiodes. Refer to the table below or the Specs tab for amplifier specifications. The offset caused by the dark current of a connected photodiode can be compensated for using the Zero Adjust screw on the output end of the amplifier (see image to the right). A switch allows the output signal's sign to be set based on the connected photodiode's polarity (AG or CG).
Each transimpedance amplifier has an in-line box design with two female BNC connectors, and is intended to be used between two BNC cables. SMA-mounted photodiodes can be connected directly using a CA2824 cable. The devices are powered through a Micro-B USB port using the included 5 V, 2 A power supply or any other available USB port. The internal electronics of the amplifier regulate the power to the amplification circuitry, isolating the device's performance from electrical noise that may be inherent to the power source.
The graphs below represent calculated data using an input source with capacitance up to 10 nF.
Input Current Connector
Output Voltage Connector
50 Ω Recommended Termination
Power Supply Connector
Theory of Operation
A junction photodiode is an intrinsic device that behaves similarly to an ordinary signal diode, but it generates a photocurrent when light is absorbed in the depleted region of the junction semiconductor. A photodiode is a fast, highly linear device that exhibits high quantum efficiency based upon the application and may be used in a variety of different applications.
It is necessary to be able to correctly determine the level of the output current to expect and the responsivity based upon the incident light. Depicted in Figure 1 is a junction photodiode model with basic discrete components to help visualize the main characteristics and gain a better understanding of the operation of Thorlabs' photodiodes.
Modes of Operation (Photoconductive vs. Photovoltaic)
The dark current present is also affected by the photodiode material and the size of the active area. Silicon devices generally produce low dark current compared to germanium devices which have high dark currents. The table below lists several photodiode materials and their relative dark currents, speeds, sensitivity, and costs.
Bandwidth and Response
Noise Equivalent Power
Here, S/N is the Signal to Noise Ratio, Δf is the Noise Bandwidth, and Incident Energy has units of W/cm2. For more information on NEP, please see Thorlabs' Noise Equivalent Power White Paper.
Depending on the type of the photodiode, load resistance can affect the response speed. For maximum bandwidth, we recommend using a 50 Ω coaxial cable with a 50 Ω terminating resistor at the opposite end of the cable. This will minimize ringing by matching the cable with its characteristic impedance. If bandwidth is not important, you may increase the amount of voltage for a given light level by increasing RLOAD. In an unmatched termination, the length of the coaxial cable can have a profound impact on the response, so it is recommended to keep the cable as short as possible.
Common Operating Circuits
The DET series detectors are modeled with the circuit depicted above. The detector is reverse biased to produce a linear response to the applied input light. The amount of photocurrent generated is based upon the incident light and wavelength and can be viewed on an oscilloscope by attaching a load resistance on the output. The function of the RC filter is to filter any high-frequency noise from the input supply that may contribute to a noisy output.
One can also use a photodetector with an amplifier for the purpose of achieving high gain. The user can choose whether to operate in Photovoltaic of Photoconductive modes. There are a few benefits of choosing this active circuit:
where GBP is the amplifier gain bandwidth product and CD is the sum of the junction capacitance and amplifier capacitance.
Effects of Chopping Frequency
The photoconductor signal will remain constant up to the time constant response limit. Many detectors, including PbS, PbSe, HgCdTe (MCT), and InAsSb, have a typical 1/f noise spectrum (i.e., the noise decreases as chopping frequency increases), which has a profound impact on the time constant at lower frequencies.
The detector will exhibit lower responsivity at lower chopping frequencies. Frequency response and detectivity are maximized for
Insights into Best Lab Practices
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Electrical Signals: AC vs. DC Coupling
When an instrument offers a choice between AC and DC coupled electrical inputs, it is not unusual for the DC coupling to be the better option for a modulated input signal.
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Figure 1: The DC offset of a signal is its average value. Since the blue curve (AC Only) has an average amplitude of zero, it has a zero DC offset. The red signal (AC and DC) is identical to the blue, except the red signal has a non-zero AC offset. A DC coupling would pass the red signal unchanged. An AC coupling would remove the DC offset and attenuate low-frequency components of the signal.
AC and DC Couplings
A DC coupling, which is called a direct coupling, is essentially a wire connected to the signal input. This conductive coupling transmits all of the signal's frequency components, the DC as well as the AC. The red curve in Figure 1 has a non-zero DC component.
In an AC coupling, the key feature is a capacitor placed in series with the signal input. The capacitor functions as a high-pass filter and is sometimes called a blocking capacitor. AC couplings strongly attenuate the DC and low-frequency signal components. This capacitive coupling is used to remove the DC offset from the input signal, so that only AC components are passed. The blue curve in Figure 1 has only AC frequency components.
Use the DC Coupled Input When Possible
Use of the DC coupled input is recommended unless the DC offset is large or the filtering provided by the AC coupled input is required. One problem with a large DC offset is that it can reduce the resolution of the instrument to unacceptably low levels. In extreme cases, DC offsets can cause clipping and saturation effects.
Note that using the DC coupled input does not guarantee a signal free of distortion. Distortion can occur due to other reasons, such as insufficient device bandwidth or impedance mismatch at the termination.
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Figure 3: Some modulated signals, including the blue curve plotted above, have no DC component, but they do have non-negligible low-frequency components. When this signal is high-pass filtered by an AC coupling, the resulting signal is distorted. The green curve is one example of this.
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Figure 2: This frequency response magnitude plotted above models a capacitor-based high-pass filter. Its cutoff frequency (Fc) is 35 Hz, and it was used to filter the signal plotted in Figure 3. That signal has a repetition rate of 200 Hz.
Reasons to Use the AC Coupled Input
When Using the AC Coupled Input
As illustrated by Figure 2, this coupling does not just remove the DC offset, it can also attenuate low frequency components that may be of interest. Due to this, AC coupling can result in signal distortion. To illustrate the effects of high-pass filtering, Figure 3 plots a binary signal, with 200 Hz repetition rate, before and after it is filtered by the high-pass filter with 35 Hz cutoff frequency (Fc).
AC-coupled, digital telecommunications signals mitigate this problem by ensuring the signals are DC balanced, so that they have no DC offset. If the signals were not DC balanced, a series of ones could cause a sustained high signal level. This would introduce a non-zero DC level that would cause the signal to be affected by the capacitive filtering. The result could be bit errors due to high states being incorrectly read as low states.
Date of Last Edit: Dec. 4, 2019
Aluminum Clamps, Post Mountable
Each clamp has a #8 (M4) counterbore on the bottom, allowing it to be mounted on a Ø1/2" post or any surface with an 8-32 (M4) tap. The clamp must be mounted via the counterbore before the device is attached, as the counterbore will not be accessible once the housing is secured in the clamp.
Plastic Clamp, Double Sided