The operation of a microwave photonic link is thoroughly investigated both theoretically and experimentally. To this aim, we have developed a simulation tool based on an accurate physical model embedded in a radio frequency (RF) chain simulator. The theoretical predictions are tested on an intensity modulation-direct detection (IMDD) link we have specifically developed to this purpose. Our simulation tool takes into account both optical and electrical characteristics of the link components including the laser dynamics and impedance matching networks. It thus enables an accurate understanding of the different physical and electrical phenomena governing the link's performances even under unusual operation conditions. Specifically, we were able to isolate an unusual behavior and to confirm it experimentally. It is thereby clear that the noise figure of a microwave optical link can be lower than the electrical losses, such as a mismatched output passive electrical network. This state is reached when the optical losses are high enough and when the link's output impedance is mismatched, too.
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