We present a numerical study of the noise of conventional and gain-clamped semiconductor optical amplifiers (SOAs), using a detailed device model. The model makes use of a density-matrix gain calculation, and takes into account the forward and backward amplified spontaneous emission (ASE) spectra and the spatial carrier hole-burning. The device is longitudinally divided into M sections and a rate equation for averaged photon and carrier densities is used for each section. We demonstrate that the accuracy on the calculated noise figure strictly depends on the number of sections M. We obtain a good tradeoff between the results accuracy and the computational complexity with M = 8. The model is then applied to study the noise in a distributed Bragg reflector (DBR)-type gain-clamped SOA for varying signal power, pump current, and lasing wavelength. We show that changes in the spatial carrier profile caused by the input signal significantly affect the noise figure, even when the gain is constant. A slight dependence of the noise figure on lasing wavelength is also foreseen, while the dependence on the pump current is negligible. A new method for gain-clamped SOA noise figure reduction is proposed, based on unbalanced Bragg reflectors. An improvement of noise figure (NF) as large as 2 dB is devised.


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