We are developing a heterodyne detection technique to measure optical transmittance with high accuracy over an unprecedented dynamic range. We have measured filters spanning a wide range of transmittances (12 orders of magnitude) and have evaluated the absolute uncertainties and discuss the ultimate accuracies that may be achieved. Our setup uses a two-beam Mach-Zehnder interferometer with acoustooptic frequency shifting to produce a frequency difference between the two light beams. We determine the optical transmittance of a filter by inserting it into one of the interferometer arms and measuring the change in amplitude of the signal at the difference frequency on the interferometer output beam. This method allows direct comparisons between optical and rf attenuators, ultimately tying optical transmittance measurements to rf attenuation standards in an absolute way.
Alan L. Migdall, B. Roop, Y. C. Zheng, J. E. Hardis, and Gu Jun Xia, "Use of heterodyne detection to measure optical transmittance over a wide range," Appl. Opt. 29, 5136-5144 (1990)