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Solid-state transistor-based receiver

DARPA out to break the 1 THz barrier for solid-state receivers

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is on a mission to create the first solid-state transistor-based receiver that will achieve gain at frequencies of over 1 terahertz (THz). Earlier this year researchers came closer than ever before, making one that worked at 0.85 THz. Since the previous milestone was 0.67 THz, they can definitely say that they are making progress.

This is all part of DARPA's Terahertz Electronics program.  The goal of this well-titled program is to make high-performance integrated circuits that operate at frequencies exceeding 1.0 THz.

Just so you know, this is high up into the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum, where frequencies are well above the radio waves that mobile devices use. That region still gets use in the military though, in programs like DARPA's Video Synthetic Aperture Radar (ViSAR), which will be used by aircraft to perform accurate reconnaissance in overcast conditions.

This part of the spectrum is called the sub millimeter wave (sub-MMW) frequency band, operating above 300 GHz , where wavelengths are shorter than 1 mm, DARPA says. Making use of those frequencies to date has required "frequency conversion," that is, multiplying frequencies to make them manageable. But conversion carried complications of its own, such as requiring large-footprint devices to operate in those frequencies, DARPA said.

The Defense Department agency is aiming to use the frequencies for imaging, radar, spectroscopy, and some communications systems.

Even though civilians'  smart phones and tablets won't directly benefit from advances in the THz Electronics program, there's nothing to say that breakthroughs in mobile technology won't come from DARPA's advances in this area.

Posted by Greg Crowe on Oct 18, 2012 at 9:39 AM


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