NbN Hot Electron Bolometric Mixers for a Quasi--Optical THz Receiver
Experimental work on the development of a quasi-optical heterodyne receiver for the THz frequency range is reported. The mixing device is a superconducting hot electron bolometer (HEB) made from ultrathin, d = 3 - 5 nm, niobium nitride (NbN) films.
Work described in this thesis comprises:
The design of a prototype receiver using quasi-optical coupling.
Device fabrication involving reactive magnetron sputtering of NbN films and lithographic definition of the antenna integrated mixer.
An investigation of the receiver performance at frequencies between 0.6 THz and 2.5 THz.
The best performance is obtained with HEB mixers made from NbN films with a thickness d = 3-3.5 nm and a critical temperature T c = 9 - 9.5 K. Double-side band receiver noise temperatures are 530 K at 0.6 THz, 650 K at 1.6 THz and 1100 K at 2.5 THz. Corrected for losses in the receiver input optics, these values amount to only 10 times the theoretical quantum limit. MgO as the substrate material has been shown to provide improved acoustic coupling between NbN film and the substrate compared to other materials such as Si or sapphire. A maximum IF gain bandwidth of 4.5 GHz has been measured under the same operating conditions which yield lowest noise temperature. The local oscilltor power requirement is ~250 nW absorbed in the bolometer.
Quasi-optically coupled HEB mixers have become the device-of-choice for radio astronomical applications in the frequency regime at and above 1 THz.
hot electron effect