In electronics, noise is an unwanted disturbance in an electrical signal.:5 Noise generated by electronic devices varies greatly as it is produced by several different effects.
In communication systems, noise is an error or undesired random disturbance of a useful information signal. The noise is a summation of unwanted or disturbing energy from natural and sometimes man-made sources. Noise is, however, typically distinguished from interference,[a] for example in the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), signal-to-interference ratio (SIR) and signal-to-noise plus interference ratio (SNIR) measures. Noise is also typically distinguished from distortion, which is an unwanted systematic alteration of the signal waveform by the communication equipment, for example in signal-to-noise and distortion ratio (SINAD) and total harmonic distortion plus noise (THD+N) measures.
Different types of noise are generated by different devices and different processes. Thermal noise is unavoidable at non-zero temperature (see fluctuation-dissipation theorem), while other types depend mostly on device type (such as shot noise, which needs a steep potential barrier) or manufacturing quality and semiconductor defects, such as conductance fluctuations, including 1/f noise.
Johnson–Nyquist noise (sometimes thermal, Johnson or Nyquist noise) is unavoidable, and generated by the random thermal motion of charge carriers (usually electrons), inside an electrical conductor, which happens regardless of any applied voltage.
Thermal noise is approximately white, meaning that its power spectral density is nearly equal throughout the frequency spectrum. The amplitude of the signal has very nearly a Gaussian probability density function. A communication system affected by thermal noise is often modeled as an additive white Gaussian noise (AWGN) channel.
Shot noise in electronic devices results from unavoidable random statistical fluctuations of the electric current when the charge carriers (such as electrons) traverse a gap. If electrons flow across a barrier, then they have discrete arrival times. Those discrete arrivals exhibit shot noise. Typically, the barrier in a diode is used. Shot noise is similar to the noise created by rain falling on a tin roof. The flow of rain may be relatively constant, but the individual raindrops arrive discretely.
The root-mean-square value of the shot noise current in is given by the Schottky formula.
where I is the DC current, q is the charge of an electron, and ΔB is the bandwidth in hertz. The Schottky formula assumes independent arrivals.
Vacuum tubes exhibit shot noise because the electrons randomly leave the cathode and arrive at the anode (plate). A tube may not exhibit the full shot noise effect: the presence of a space charge tends to smooth out the arrival times (and thus reduce the randomness of the current).
Conductors and resistors typically do not exhibit shot noise because the electrons thermalize and move diffusively within the material; the electrons do not have discrete arrival times. Shot noise has been demonstrated in mesoscopic resistors when the size of the resistive element becomes shorter than the electron–phonon scattering length.
Flicker noise, also known as 1/f noise, is a signal or process with a frequency spectrum that falls off steadily into the higher frequencies, with a pink spectrum. It occurs in almost all electronic devices and results from a variety of effects.
Burst noise consists of sudden step-like transitions between two or more discrete voltage or current levels, as high as several hundred microvolts, at random and unpredictable times. Each shift in offset voltage or current lasts for several milliseconds to seconds. It is also known a popcorn noise for the popping or crackling sounds it produces in audio circuits.
If the time taken by the electrons to travel from emitter to collector in a transistor becomes comparable to the period of the signal being amplified, that is, at frequencies above VHF and beyond, the transit-time effect takes place and noise input impedance of the transistor decreases. From the frequency at which this effect becomes significant, it increases with frequency and quickly dominates other sources of noise.
While noise may be generated in the electronic circuit itself, additional noise energy can be coupled into a circuit from the external environment, by inductive coupling or capacitive coupling, or through the antenna of a radio receiver.
- Intermodulation noise
- Caused when signals of different frequencies share the same non-linear medium.
- Phenomenon in which a signal transmitted in one circuit or channel of a transmission systems creates undesired interference onto a signal in another channel.
- Modification or disruption of a signal travelling along a medium
- Atmospheric noise
- This noise is also called static noise and it is the natural source of disturbance caused by lightning discharge in thunderstorm and the natural (electrical) disturbances occurring in nature.
- Industrial noise
- Sources such as automobiles, aircraft, ignition electric motors and switching gear, High voltage wires and fluorescent lamps cause industrial noise. These noises are produced by the discharge present in all these operations.
- Solar noise
- Noise that originates from the Sun is called solar noise. Under normal conditions there is constant radiation from the Sun due to its high temperature. Electrical disturbances such as corona discharges, as well as sunspots can produce additional noise. The intensity of solar noise varies over time in a solar cycle.
- Cosmic noise
- Distant stars generate noise called cosmic noise. While these stars are too far away to individually affect terrestrial communications systems, their large number leads to appreciable collective effects. Cosmic noise has been observed in a range from 8 MHz to 1.43 GHz, the latter frequency corresponding to the 21-cm hydrogen line. Apart from man-made noise, it is the strongest component over the range of about 20 to 120 MHz. Little cosmic noise below 20MHz penetrates the ionosphere, while its eventual disappearance at frequencies in excess of 1.5 GHz is probably governed by the mechanisms generating it and its absorption by hydrogen in interstellar space.
In many cases noise found on a signal in a circuit is unwanted. There are many different noise reduction techniques that can reduce the noise picked up by a circuit.
- Faraday cage – A Faraday cage enclosing a circuit can be used to isolate the circuit from external noise sources. A faraday cage cannot address noise sources that originate in the circuit itself or those carried in on its inputs, including the power supply.
- Capacitive coupling – Capacitive coupling allows an AC signal from one part of the circuit to be picked up in another part through interaction of electric fields. Where coupling is unintended, the effects can be addressed through improved circuit layout and grounding.
- Ground loops – When grounding a circuit, it is important to avoid ground loops. Ground loops occur when there is a voltage difference between two ground connections. Since ground is thought of as 0 V, the presence of a voltage is undesirable at any point of a ground bus. If this is the case, it would not be a true ground. A good way to fix this is to bring all the ground wires to the same potential in a ground bus.
- Shielding cables – In general, using shielded cables to protect the wires from unwanted noise frequencies in a sensitive circuit is good practice. A shielded wire can be thought of as a small Faraday cage for a specific wire as it uses a plastic or rubber enclosing the true wire. Just outside the rubber/plastic covering is a conductive metal that intercepts any noise signal. Because the conductive metal is grounded, the noise signal runs straight to ground before ever getting to the true wire. It is important to ground the shield at only one end to avoid a ground loop on the shield.
- Twisted pair wiring – Twisting wires very tightly together in a circuit will dramatically reduce electromagnetic noise. Twisting the wires decreases the loop size in which a magnetic field can run through to produce a current between the wires. Even if the wires are twisted very tightly, there may still be small loops somewhere between them, but because they are twisted the magnetic field going through the smaller loops induces a current flowing in opposite ways in each wire and thus cancelling them out.
- Notch filters – Notch filters or band-rejection filters are essential when eliminating a specific noise frequency. For example, in some countries (notably the USA and Canada) power lines within a building run at 60 Hz. Sometimes a sensitive circuit will pick up this 60 Hz noise through some unwanted antenna (could be as simple as a wire in the circuit). Running the output through a notch filter at 60 Hz will amplify the desired signal without amplifying the 60 Hz noise. So in a sense the noise will be lost at the output of the filter.
The noise level in an electronic system is typically measured as an electrical power N in watts or dBm, a root mean square (RMS) voltage (identical to the noise standard deviation) in volts, dBμV or a mean squared error (MSE) in volts squared. Noise may also be characterized by its probability distribution and noise spectral density N0(f) in watts per hertz.
A noise signal is typically considered as a linear addition to a useful information signal. Typical signal quality measures involving noise are signal-to-noise ratio (SNR or S/N), signal-to-quantization noise ratio (SQNR) in analog-to-digital conversion and compression, peak signal-to-noise ratio (PSNR) in image and video coding, Eb/N0 in digital transmission, carrier to noise ratio (CNR) before the detector in carrier-modulated systems, and noise figure in cascaded amplifiers.
Noise is a random process, characterized by stochastic properties such as its variance, distribution, and spectral density. The spectral distribution of noise can vary with frequency, so its power density is measured in watts per hertz (W/Hz). Since the power in a resistive element is proportional to the square of the voltage across it, noise voltage (density) can be described by taking the square root of the noise power density, resulting in volts per root hertz ( ). Integrated circuit devices, such as operational amplifiers commonly quote equivalent input noise level in these terms (at room temperature).
Noise power is measured in watts or decibels (dB) relative to a standard power, usually indicated by adding a suffix after dB. Examples of electrical noise-level measurement units are dBu, dBm0, dBrn, dBrnC, and dBrn(f1 − f2), dBrn(144-line).
Noise levels are usually viewed in opposition to signal levels and so are often seen as part of a signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). Telecommunication systems strive to increase the ratio of signal level to noise level in order to effectively transmit data. In practice, if the transmitted signal falls below the level of the noise (often designated as the noise floor) in the system, data can no longer be decoded at the receiver. Noise in telecommunication systems is a product of both internal and external sources to the system.
In a carrier-modulated passband analog communication system, a certain carrier-to-noise ratio (CNR) at the radio receiver input would result in a certain signal-to-noise ratio in the detected message signal. In a digital communications system, a certain Eb/N0 (normalized signal-to-noise ratio) would result in a certain bit error rate.
If the noise source is correlated with the signal, such as in the case of quantisation error, the intentional introduction of additional noise, called dither, can reduce overall noise in the bandwidth of interest. This technique allows retrieval of signals below the nominal detection threshold of an instrument. This is an example of stochastic resonance.
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- Ott, Henry W. (1976), Noise Reduction Techniques in Electronic Systems, John Wiley, pp. 208, 218, ISBN 0-471-65726-3
- Steinbach, Andrew; Martinis, John; Devoret, Michel (1996-05-13). "Observation of Hot-Electron Shot Noise in a Metallic Resistor". Phys. Rev. Lett. 76 (20): 38.6–38.9. Bibcode:1996PhRvL..76...38M. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.76.38.
- Communication Theory. Technical Publications. p. 3-6. ISBN 9788184314472.
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- White noise calculator, thermal noise - Voltage in microvolts, conversion to noise level in dBu and dBV and vice versa
- This article incorporates public domain material from the General Services Administration document "Federal Standard 1037C" (in support of MIL-STD-188).
- Scherz, Paul. (2006, Nov 14) Practical Electronics for Inventors. ed. McGraw-Hill.