Noise spectral density

Last updated

In communications, noise spectral density, noise power density, noise power spectral density, or simply noise density (N0) is the power spectral density of noise or the noise power per unit of bandwidth. It has dimension of power over frequency, whose SI unit is watts per hertz (equivalent to watt-seconds or Joules). It is commonly used in link budgets as the denominator of the important figure-of-merit ratios, such as carrier-to-noise-density ratio as well as Eb/N0 and Es/N0.

If the noise is one-sided white noise, i.e., constant with frequency, then the total noise power N integrated over a bandwidth B is N = BN0 (for double-sided white noise, the bandwidth is doubled, so N is BN0/2). This is utilized in signal-to-noise ratio calculations.

For thermal noise, its spectral density is given by N0 = kT, where k is Boltzmann's constant in joules per kelvin, and T is the receiver system noise temperature in kelvins.

The noise amplitude spectral density is the square root of the noise power spectral density, and is given in units such as . [1] [2]

See also

Related Research Articles

Bandwidth (signal processing) Difference between the upper and lower frequencies passed by a filter, communication channel, or signal spectrum

Bandwidth is the difference between the upper and lower frequencies in a continuous band of frequencies. It is typically measured in hertz, and depending on context, may specifically refer to passband bandwidth or baseband bandwidth. Passband bandwidth is the difference between the upper and lower cutoff frequencies of, for example, a band-pass filter, a communication channel, or a signal spectrum. Baseband bandwidth applies to a low-pass filter or baseband signal; the bandwidth is equal to its upper cutoff frequency.

The decibel is a relative unit of measurement corresponding to one tenth of a bel (B). It is used to express the ratio of one value of a power or root-power quantity to another, on a logarithmic scale. A logarithmic quantity in decibels is called a level. Two signals whose levels differ by one decibel have a power ratio of 101/10 or an amplitude ratio of 10120.

Frequency modulation Encoding of information in a carrier wave by varying the instantaneous frequency of the wave

Frequency modulation (FM) is the encoding of information in a carrier wave by varying the instantaneous frequency of the wave. The technology is used in telecommunications, radio broadcasting, signal processing, and computing.

Noise-equivalent power (NEP) is a measure of the sensitivity of a photodetector or detector system. It is defined as the signal power that gives a signal-to-noise ratio of one in a one hertz output bandwidth. An output bandwidth of one hertz is equivalent to half a second of integration time. The units of NEP are watts per square root hertz. The NEP is equal to the noise spectral density divided by the responsivity. The fundamental equation is .

In electronics, noise temperature is one way of expressing the level of available noise power introduced by a component or source. The power spectral density of the noise is expressed in terms of the temperature that would produce that level of Johnson–Nyquist noise, thus:

Phase noise

In signal processing, phase noise is the frequency-domain representation of random fluctuations in the phase of a waveform, corresponding to time-domain deviations from perfect periodicity ("jitter"). Generally speaking, radio-frequency engineers speak of the phase noise of an oscillator, whereas digital-system engineers work with the jitter of a clock.

Signal-to-noise ratio is a measure used in science and engineering that compares the level of a desired signal to the level of background noise. SNR is defined as the ratio of signal power to the noise power, often expressed in decibels. A ratio higher than 1:1 indicates more signal than noise.

In information theory, the Shannon–Hartley theorem tells the maximum rate at which information can be transmitted over a communications channel of a specified bandwidth in the presence of noise. It is an application of the noisy-channel coding theorem to the archetypal case of a continuous-time analog communications channel subject to Gaussian noise. The theorem establishes Shannon's channel capacity for such a communication link, a bound on the maximum amount of error-free information per time unit that can be transmitted with a specified bandwidth in the presence of the noise interference, assuming that the signal power is bounded, and that the Gaussian noise process is characterized by a known power or power spectral density. The law is named after Claude Shannon and Ralph Hartley.

The jansky is a non-SI unit of spectral flux density, or spectral irradiance, used especially in radio astronomy. It is equivalent to 10−26 watts per square metre per hertz.

Johnson–Nyquist noise

Johnson–Nyquist noise is the electronic noise generated by the thermal agitation of the charge carriers inside an electrical conductor at equilibrium, which happens regardless of any applied voltage. Thermal noise is present in all electrical circuits, and in sensitive electronic equipment such as radio receivers can drown out weak signals, and can be the limiting factor on sensitivity of an electrical measuring instrument. Thermal noise increases with temperature. Some sensitive electronic equipment such as radio telescope receivers are cooled to cryogenic temperatures to reduce thermal noise in their circuits. The generic, statistical physical derivation of this noise is called the fluctuation-dissipation theorem, where generalized impedance or generalized susceptibility is used to characterize the medium.

Spectral density Relative importance of certain frequencies in a composite signal

The power spectrum of a time series describes the distribution of power into frequency components composing that signal. According to Fourier analysis, any physical signal can be decomposed into a number of discrete frequencies, or a spectrum of frequencies over a continuous range. The statistical average of a certain signal or sort of signal as analyzed in terms of its frequency content, is called its spectrum.

Frequency response is the quantitative measure of the output spectrum of a system or device in response to a stimulus, and is used to characterize the dynamics of the system. It is a measure of magnitude and phase of the output as a function of frequency, in comparison to the input. In simplest terms, if a sine wave is injected into a system at a given frequency, a linear system will respond at that same frequency with a certain magnitude and a certain phase angle relative to the input. Also for a linear system, doubling the amplitude of the input will double the amplitude of the output. In addition, if the system is time-invariant, then the frequency response also will not vary with time. Thus for LTI systems, the frequency response can be seen as applying the system's transfer function to a purely imaginary number argument representing the frequency of the sinusoidal excitation.

Spectrum analyzer

A spectrum analyzer measures the magnitude of an input signal versus frequency within the full frequency range of the instrument. The primary use is to measure the power of the spectrum of known and unknown signals. The input signal that most common spectrum analyzers measure is electrical; however, spectral compositions of other signals, such as acoustic pressure waves and optical light waves, can be considered through the use of an appropriate transducer. Spectrum analyzers for other types of signals also exist, such as optical spectrum analyzers which use direct optical techniques such as a monochromator to make measurements.

Colors of noise Power spectrum of a noise signal (a signal produced by a stochastic process)

In audio engineering, electronics, physics, and many other fields, the color of noise refers to the power spectrum of a noise signal. Different colors of noise have significantly different properties: for example, as audio signals they will sound different to human ears, and as images they will have a visibly different texture. Therefore, each application typically requires noise of a specific color. This sense of 'color' for noise signals is similar to the concept of timbre in music ; however the latter is almost always used for sound, and may consider very detailed features of the spectrum.

Spectral efficiency, spectrum efficiency or bandwidth efficiency refers to the information rate that can be transmitted over a given bandwidth in a specific communication system. It is a measure of how efficiently a limited frequency spectrum is utilized by the physical layer protocol, and sometimes by the medium access control.


In digital communication or data transmission, Eb/N0 is a normalized signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) measure, also known as the "SNR per bit". It is especially useful when comparing the bit error rate (BER) performance of different digital modulation schemes without taking bandwidth into account.

Noise (electronics) Random fluctuation in an electrical signal

In electronics, noise is an unwanted disturbance in an electrical signal. Noise generated by electronic devices varies greatly as it is produced by several different effects.

In telecommunications, the carrier-to-noise ratio, often written CNR or C/N, is the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of a modulated signal. The term is used to distinguish the CNR of the radio frequency passband signal from the SNR of an analog base band message signal after demodulation, for example an audio frequency analog message signal. If this distinction is not necessary, the term SNR is often used instead of CNR, with the same definition.

The concept of a linewidth is borrowed from laser spectroscopy. The linewidth of a laser is a measure of its phase noise. The spectrogram of a laser is produced by passing its light through a prism. The spectrogram of the output of a pure noise-free laser will consist of a single infinitely thin line. If the laser exhibits phase noise, the line will have non-zero width. The greater the phase noise, the wider the line. The same will be true with oscillators. The spectrum of the output of a noise-free oscillator has energy at each of the harmonics of the output signal, but the bandwidth of each harmonic will be zero. If the oscillator exhibits phase noise, the harmonics will not have zero bandwidth. The more phase noise the oscillator exhibits, the wider the bandwidth of each harmonic.

A minimum detectable signal is a signal at the input of a system whose power allows it to be detected over the background electronic noise of the detector system. It can alternately be defined as a signal that produces a signal-to-noise ratio of a given value m at the output. In practice, m is usually chosen to be greater than unity. In some literature, the name sensitivity is used for this concept.


  1. Michael Cerna & Audrey F. Harvey (2000). "The Fundamentals of FFT-Based Signal Analysis and Measurement" (PDF). Amplitude spectral density is computed as … The units are then in Vrms/√Hz or V/√Hz
  2. "FFT Spectrum and Spectral Densities – Same Data, Different Scaling". Audio Precision. Retrieved 2021-02-16. The Amplitude Spectral Density is also used to analyze noise signals. It has units of V/√ Hz in the analog domain and FS/√ Hz in the digital domain.