[Simple Example]
[Command line function] [Segmented Fourier filter] [Interactive
Fourier Filter] [Application
of a narrow bandpass filter]

The Fourier filter is a type
of filtering function that is based on manipulation of specific
frequency components
of a signal. It works by taking the Fourier transform of the
signal, then attenuating or amplifying specific frequencies, and
finally inverse transforming the result. In many science
measurements, such as spectroscopy and chromatography, the
signals are relatively smooth shapes that can be represented by
a surprisingly small number of Fourier components. For example,
the animation below (script) shows in
the top panel a signal of three smooth peaks, with peak heights
of 1, 2, and 3, where the x-axis is time in seconds. The middle
panel shown the first 51 frequencies of its Fourier spectrum
(zero through 50). In this case the x-axis is both the frequency
in Hz and the Fourier component number (because the duration of
the signal is exactly 1 second). The amplitude of the Fourier
components is strongest at low frequencies and drops to near
zero at 25 Hz.

The bottom panel shows in this figure the signal
re-constructed by inverse transforming the first "n" Fourier
components. The animation (visible in a web browser) shows the
result of using the frequencies between 1 through 25
progressively. The reconstructed signal starts as a single sine
wave and becomes progressively more complex as more frequencies
are added, until it is visually indistinguishable from the
original signal when 25 frequencies are included. But notice
what the reconstructed signal looks like when it gets to 16
frequencies; the amplitude has already dropped very low and
there is relatively little amplitude in the remaining
frequencies. The three peaks are rendered well but the baseline
has a distinct ripple. That is caused by the abrupt cut-off of
the frequencies beyond that point, which can be avoided by using
a filter with an adjustable filter shape that allows the cut-off
rate to be controlled.

The figure below shows the same three-peak
signal, but with the addition of random white noise with a
standard deviation equal to the the peak height of the smallest
peak (line 14 of the same script). White noise has equal
amplitude at all frequencies, whereas most of the peak
signal is concentrated in the first 25 frequencies, so we can
expect that most but not all of the noise can be eliminated by
employing a low-pass filter with a cut-off frequency around 25
Hz. The result (bottom panel) shows the three peaks with their
position and peak heights approximately intact. Obviously the
noise *below *25 Hz remains, which is why the signal is
imperfect.

The optimization of the Fourier
filter for the signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio of peak signals faces
the same compromise as conventional smoothing functions; namely,
the optimum SNR is achieved when the peak height is less than
the noiseless maximum. For example, the script GaussianSNRFrequencyReconstruction.m
shows that *the optimum SNR is reached when the peak height
is about half the true value*, but the peak area is the
same.

**Adjustable filter shape.** A more dramatic
example is shown the figure below. In this case, the signal (top
left) seems to be only random high-frequency noise, and its
Fourier spectrum (top right) shows that high-frequency
components dominate the spectrum over much of its frequency
range (script). In the bottom
left figure, the Fourier spectrum is expanded in the X and Y
directions to show the low-frequency region more clearly
There, the series of relatively smooth bumps with peaks at the
1st, 20th, and 40th frequencies, are most likely the actual
signal. Working on the hypothesis that the components above the
40th harmonic are increasingly dominated by noise, a more
versatile Fourier filter function (FouFilter.m)
can be used to gradually reduce the higher harmonics and to
reconstruct the signal from the modified Fourier transform (red
line). The result after inverse Fourier transforming (bottom
right) shows the signal actually contains two partly overlapping
Lorentzian peaks that were totally obscured by noise in the
original signal.

`ffty=fft(y); % ffty is the fft of y`

`lfft=length(ffty); % Length of the FFT
`

% are set to zero.

ffty(n:lfft-n)=0;

Here, *n* is the number of frequencies that
are passed; all others are simply eliminated. The function form
of this operation is flp.m. This is the
minimal essence of a Fourier filter. The script flptest.m demonstrates its use (figure on
the right). The is not really a practical filter, however,
because its abrupt cutoff usually results in ringing on the
baseline, as shown above.

**General-purpose
Fourier filter function.** To make the Fourier filter more
generally useful, we should add code to include not only
low-pass, but also high-pass, band pass, and band reject filter
modes, plus a provision for more gentle and variable cut-off
rates. This, and more, is done in the following section. The
custom Matlab/Octave
function **FouFilter.m** can serve
as a bandpass or bandreject (notch) filter with variable cut-off
rate. (Version 2, March, 2019, correction thanks to Dr. Raphael
Attie, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center). It has the form`
[ry,fy,ffilter,ffy] = FouFilter(y, samplingtime,
centerfrequency, frequencywidth, shape, mode)`, where y is
the time-series signal vector, 'samplingtime' is the total
duration of sampled signal in sec, millisec, or microsec;
'centerfrequency' and 'frequencywidth' are the center frequency
and width of the filter in Hz, KHz, or MHz, respectively;
'Shape' determines the sharpness of the cut-off. If shape = 1,
the filter is Gaussian; as shape increases the filter shape
becomes more and more rectangular. Set mode = 0 for band-pass
filter, mode = 1 for band-reject (notch) filter. Set
centerfrequency to zero for a low-pass filter. FouFilter returns
the filtered signal in 'ry'. It can handle signals of virtually
any length, limited only by the memory in your computer. Here
are two examples of its application: TestFouFilter.m
demonstrates a Fourier bandpass filter applied to a noisy 100 Hz
sine wave which appears in the middle third of the signal
record. TestFouFilter2.m is an
animated demonstration of the Fourier bandpass filter applied to
a noisy 100 Hz sine wave signal, with the filter center
frequency swept from 50 to 150 Hz. Both requires the FouFilter.m
function in the Matlab/Octave path.

iFilter 4.3, an Interactive Fourier Filter for Matlab, allows you to select from six filter modes ('band-pass', 'low-pass', 'high-pass', 'band-reject (notch), 'comb pass', and 'comb notch'). (In the

MorseCode.m
is a script that uses iFilter to demonstrate the abilities and
limitations of Fourier filtering. It creates a pulsed *fixed
**frequency* (0.05) sine
wave that spells out "SOS" in Morse code
(dit-dit-dit/dah-dah-dah/dit-dit-dit), adds random white noise
so that the SNR is extremely
poor (about 0.1 in this example). The white noise has a
frequency spectrum that is spread
out over the entire range of frequencies; the signal
itself is concentrated mostly at a fixed frequency (0.05) but
the presence of the Morse Code pulses spreads out its spectrum
over a narrow frequency
range of about 0.0004. This suggests that a Fourier
bandpass filter tuned to the signal frequency might be able to
isolate the signal from the noise. As the bandwidth is reduced,
the signal-to-noise ratio improves and the signal begins to emerges from the
noise until it
becomes clear, but if the bandwidth is *too *narrow,
the *step response time* is too slow to give distinct
"dits" and "dahs"FF. The step response time is inversely
proportional to the bandwidth. (Use the ? and " keys to adjust
the bandwidth. Press '**P**' or the Spacebar to hear the
sound). You can actually *hear *that sine wave component
better than you can *see *it in the waveform plot (upper
panel), because the
ear works like a spectrum analyzer, with separate nerve
endings assigned to to specific
frequencies, whereas the eye analyzes the graph spatially,
looking at the overall amplitude and not at individual
frequencies.

Watch an mp4 video of
this script in operation, with sound. Also on YouTube.

The script RealTimeFourierFilter.m
is a demonstration of a *real-time* Fourier filter which
is discussed in Appendix
Y.

An older version of this page is also available in French.

Last updated December, 2021 This page is part of "

Unique visits since May 17, 2008: