Thanks to wavelength flexibility, interferometric filters such as Fabry–Perot interferometers (FPIs) and field-widened Michelson interferometers (FWMIs) have shown great convenience for spectrally separating the molecule and aerosol scattering components in the high-spectral-resolution lidar (HSRL) return signal. In this paper, performance comparisons between the FPI and FWMI as a spectroscopic discrimination filter in HSRL are performed. We first present a theoretical method for spectral transmission analysis and quantitative evaluation on the spectral discrimination. Then the process in determining the parameters of the FPI and FWMI for the performance comparisons is described. The influences from the incident field of view (FOV), the cumulative wavefront error induced by practical imperfections, and the frequency locking error on the spectral discrimination performance of the two filters are discussed in detail. Quantitative analyses demonstrate that FPI can produce higher transmittance while the remarkable spectral discrimination is one of the most appealing advantages of FWMI. As a result of the field-widened design, the FWMI still performs well even under the illumination with large FOV while the FPI is only qualified for a small incident angle. The cumulative wavefront error attaches a great effect on the spectral discrimination performance of the interferometric filters. We suggest if a cumulative wavefront error is less than 0.05 waves RMS, it is beneficial to employ the FWMI; otherwise, FPI may be more proper. Although the FWMI shows much more sensitivity to the frequency locking error, it can outperform the FPI given a locking error less than 0.1 GHz is achieved. In summary, the FWMI is very competent in HSRL applications if these practical engineering and control problems can be solved, theoretically. Some other estimations neglected in this paper can also be carried out through the analytical method illustrated herein.
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