Terahertz technology and applications
Conference contribution, 2008
THz or submillimetre-wave sensing covers the frequency range from 300 GHz to 10 THz (wavelengths from 1 mm to 30 µm). With energy levels in the 1.2-40 meV range, terahertz interactions with matter involve intermolecular, rather than atomic transitions. This gives rise to some imaging and spectroscopy applications that are unique to this particular region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Many polar molecules in the low pressure gaseous state have strong, narrow band, vibrational and rotational emission or absorption modes that peak in this regime and are used as probes for quantum chemistry, astrophysical processes and the dynamics of planetary atmospheres, including the Earth. Still, the terahertz spectral region is by far the least explored portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. A great obstacle has been the absence of robust and reasonable inexpensive receiver components that can operate at room temperature. The talk will consist of two parts: a) room temperature technology for THz applications and b) terahertz applications in biology and medicine.
At Chalmers, several key technologies are explored for future THz systems such as radiometers, radars, spectrometers and communication links for frequencies from approximately 100GHz to several THz. Transistors with 50 nm gate length based on the two dimensional electron gas can at present be used for frequencies up to and above 300 GHz for circuits such as amplifiers, frequency mixers, frequency multipliers, oscillators, and modulators. For even higher frequencies, submicron low noise Schottky diodes are used for heterodyne mixers. We are currently pursuing studies of high functionality THz mixers (SSB) and in-house fabrication of monolithically integrated Schottky diode circuits. Results and progress on single side band mixers at 340 GHz aimed for future climate research satellites such as the ESA PREMIER mission. Furthermore, single chip receivers (MMIC) up to 220 GHz for imaging applications will be presented.
THz imaging and spectroscopy for biomedical applications is being targeted for the very first time, including assessment of protein conformational states, molecular binding and interaction, DNA hybridization, isomer identification, skin hydration level, drug delivery, wound healing, tumour identification and margin assessment, and cell processes. The submillimeter wave advanced technology group at Caltech, in conjunction with the group at Chalmers (J.Stake was visiting Caltech under a sabbatical), set up a very flexible exposure and monitoring system to be used to systematically investigate the interaction of THz radiation with cells.
The talk will cover the latest results obtained from Chalmers on MMICs and Schottky diode mixers for terahertz frequencies (sensors), as well as results from initial investigations towards thermal and non-thermal effects of THz radiation on biological systems (Caltech/JPL-Chalmers).