Skip to main content

Optics and Photonics Overview

Optics and photonics research aims to measure the fundamental characteristics of light and light-matter interaction on different spatial and temporal scales. With novel light sources being developed, ranging from continuous wave (CW) to pulsed ultrafast laser systems, the number of phenomena that can be studied is constantly increasing, and ever smaller effects and faster processes are being investigated.

Zurich instruments’ lock-in amplifiers are ideal instruments for measuring the amplitude and phase of periodic signals from a large variety of optical experiments, covering the range from elementary to cutting-edge experimental designs. Thanks to their low input noise and large dynamic reserve, they can detect minute signals and achieve large signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs) quickly and reliably.

Boost your Optical Signal Detection with Lock-in Amplifiers and Boxcar Averagers

Each instrument is equipped with a set of advanced measurement tools, such as an oscilloscope, a parametric sweeper, a spectrum analyzer, and more, allowing you to characterize your optical signals more comprehensively.  Additionally, if an analog interface to other instruments is needed — for example, a control voltage for laser cavities or delay lines — internal measurement results or other customizable signals can easily be routed out from the instruments via the auxiliary output connectors. This toolset, together with several field upgradeable options, expand the functionality of the instruments well beyond lock-in amplification, making them a perfect fit for the demanding requirements of many applications.   

Figure 1 shows a schematic configuration of an optical experiment, illustrating how the instruments can be used to both detect and generate various driving signals.

Optics and Photonics Overview Figure 1

Figure 1: Typical building blocks of a standard optical experiment and illustrative connections to the Zurich Instruments Lock-in Amplifier.

Some examples of applications/use cases related to the functionalities and upgrade options of the instruments: 

Feature Application Examples
Lock-in detection
PID controllers
Phased-Looked Loops (PLL) 
Multi-frequency & modulation
Boxcar Averager

Each of these functionalities can be controlled through LabOne®, a proprietary software of Zurich Instruments. This platform-independent instrument control tool provides users with a powerful and intuitive user interface, together with support for the most popular programming languages.

These features make Zurich Instruments' lock-in amplifiers extremely versatile, allowing them to be tailored to any experimental setup, reducing experiment complexity and decreasing the time to publication.

When setting up an optical experiment, a key parameter to select is typically the frequency at which the excitation light is modulated. As a rule of thumb, and whenever feasible, it is advisable to choose a modulation frequency that is as large as possible — e.g., half the repetition rate of a pulsed laser — to minimize the impact of correlated and 1/f noise contributions.
The graphic below gives an overview of Zurich Instruments' lock-in amplifiers and the frequency range they can cover. Each instrument is capable of measuring at frequencies spanning from DC to the maximum frequency indicated on the axis.

Overview of Zurich Instruments lock-in platforms with application examples and their typical frequency span

Optics and Photonics Overview Figure 2

Three reasons to choose Zurich Instruments for your optics and photonics experiment:

  • Explore higher frequency domains of your optical experiment with high noise rejection and faster measurements: with signal inputs up to 8.5 GHz, Zurich Instruments’ lock-in amplifiers cover a wide range of modulation techniques and applications.

  • Carry out multiple tasks in parallel with one instrument: for example, you can simultaneously perform lock-in detection and boxcar averaging on the signal from the photodetector while running a PID/PLL control loop to stabilize your laser cavity. The parallelization of several experimental aspects allows you to achieve results more efficiently and quickly.

  • Ease of integration: thanks to our APIs (LabVIEW, MATLAB, Python, .NET, C), swiftly connect your lock-in amplifier with all the elements, e.g., delay lines and/or modulators, in your experimental setup.

Get in touch with us to discuss your requirements. We are happy to know more about your application and set up remote demonstrations of our instruments.

Start the conversation

Contact Us