A novel ADC configuration that can be characterized as a photonic-domain flash analog-to-digital convertor operating based upon free-space interferometry is proposed and analysed. The structure can be used as the front-end of a coherent receiver as well as for other applications. Two configurations are considered: the first, 'direct free-space interference', allows simultaneous measuring of the optical phase and amplitude; the second, 'extraction of the ac component of interference by means of pixel-by-pixel balanced photodetection', allows only phase digitization but with significantly higher sensitivity. For both proposed configurations, we present Monte Carlo estimations of the performance limitations, due to optical noise and photo-current noise, at sampling rates of 60 giga-samples per second. In terms of bit resolution, we simulated multiple cases with growing complexity of up to 4 bits for the amplitude and up to 6 bits for the phase. The simulations show that the digitization errors in the optical domain can be reduced to levels close to the quantization noise limits. Preliminary experimental results validate the fundamentals of the proposed idea.
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analog optical signal processing