Dispersive Fourier transformation (DFT) maps the broadband spectrum of an ultrashort optical pulse into a time stretched waveform with its intensity profile mirroring the spectrum using chromatic dispersion. Owing to its capability of continuous pulse-by-pulse spectroscopic measurement and manipulation, DFT has become an emerging technique for ultrafast signal generation and processing, and high-throughput real-time measurements, where the speed of traditional optical instruments falls short. In this paper, the principle and implementation methods of DFT are first introduced and the recent development in employing DFT technique for widespread microwave photonics applications are presented, with emphasis on real-time spectroscopy, microwave arbitrary waveform generation, and microwave spectrum sensing. Finally, possible future research directions for DFT-based microwave photonics techniques are discussed as well.
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