New York: Engineers have developed a receiver that can detect a weak, fast and randomly occurring signal.
The discovery lays the groundwork for a new class of highly sensitive communication receivers and scientific instruments that can extract faint, non-repetitive signals from noise.
It has applications in secure communication, electronic warfare, signal intelligence, remote sensing, astronomy and spectroscopy.
"With the new receiver, it is now possible to capture an ephemeral, non-repeating signal and observe fast, sparsely occurring natural or artificial phenomena -- that would otherwise be invisible to us -- over a long period of time using a slow detector," explained Stojan Radic, electrical engineering professor at the Jacobs School of Engineering.
The research is motivated by a long-standing need to capture random, singly-occurring phenomena in nature and in communications.
To overcome the limitations of conventional detection methods, researchers developed a spectral-cloning receiver that works by replicating the received noisy signal to generate multiple spectral (coloured) copies and then combines these copies to reveal the existence of the signal within the noise.
The receiver they developed "can potentially intercept communication signals that are presently considered secure."
These signals are based on singly-occurring bursts, which disappear before another measurement can be taken to separate noise.
The study was published in the journal Science.