Ultra-wide-band analog-to-digital (A/D) conversion is one of the most critical problems faced in communication, instrumentation, and radar systems. This paper presents a comprehensive analysis of the recently proposed time-stretched A/D converter. By reducing the signal bandwidth prior to digitization,this technique offers revolutionary enhancements in the performance of electronic converters. The paper starts with a fundamental-physics analysis of the time-wavelength transformation and the implication of time dilation on the signal-to-noise ratio. A detailed mathematical description of the time-stretch process is then constructed. It elucidates the influence of linear and nonlinear optical dispersion on the fidelity of the electrical signal. Design issues of a single-sideband time-stretch system, as they relate to broad-band operation, are examined. Problems arising from the nonuniform optical power spectral density are explained,and two methods for overcoming them are described. As proof of the concept,120 GSa/s real-time digitization of a 20-GHz signal is demonstrated. Finally,design issues and performance features of a continuous-time time-stretch system are discussed.
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