Detecting the almost undetectable

Stanford Research Systems Lock-In Amps

Having the right equipment is vital, especially when you are a scientist carrying out painstaking work that requires the highest degree of precision.

Product knowledge is clearly the key to finding the right equipment. This is an area where Acal BFi truly stand out from the crowd. We supply the products of leading manufacturers worldwide. We go beyond that by working closely with those manufacturers so that we know what developments they are considering, and our engineers receive in-house training from the companies concerned. This all means that our customers benefit from invaluable expertise as well as the best product quality.

Market-leading features

Lock-in amplifiers, such as the SR range made by Stanford Research Systems and supplied by Acal BFi, are used to measure the amplitude and phase of small AC signals in the presence of much larger noise levels. They can detect extremely small signals, as small as a few nanovolts, even when that signal is obscured by noise sources thousands of times more loud.

Lock-in amplifiers use a technique known as phase-sensitive detection (the alternative name for a lock-in is a phase-sensitive detector). They use this to home in on and single out the component of a signal at a specific reference frequency and a specific phase.

Lock-in measurements require a reference frequency. Usually, an experiment is excited at a fixed frequency (for example from an oscillator), and the lock-in detects the response to the experiment at the reference frequency. The lock-in amplifier effectively responds to signals which are coherent (at the same frequency and phase) with the reference waveform, and rejects all other signals.

Practical scientific applications

Lock-in amplifiers are widely used to recover the smallest of signals, in fields such as:

  • spectroscopy
  • the study of fluorescence and luminescence
  • cryogenics
  • electronic component characterisation, and
  • measuring the resistance of superconductors.

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