We describe an efficient and robust method for the extraction of the longitudinal error signal for the automatic control of optical interferometers, which can also be applied when the uncontrolled optical system spans hundreds of fringes. The method is based on classic modulation techniques (phase modulation, mechanical modulation, etc.), but extends their performances by the use of the information available only at the output photodiode. We digitally implemented such a method by following modular hardware and software architectures. We then tested the whole procedure in the automatic control of a suspended Michelson interferometer, showing its feasibility and the good performances.
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