Terahertz Communications Channel Sounder

This project deals with investigating the impact of an environment on future extreme bandwidth electromagnetic communications sysyems opperating up to and beyond 1THz.

This project is intended to open up a new regime for communications and electrical engineering research in Oxford. Its aim is to develop the basic hardware required to enable basic research into the potential for THz frequency communications systems. Over the last 10 years the communications group here in Engineering has developed RF communications activities in the frequency regime below 60 GHz. Immediately above this range no equipment was available for experimental work of any sort despite a growing worldwide interest in exploiting electromagnetic spectrum above 300GHz for communications and sensing. This frequency regime is technologically awkward as there are no simple sources and detectors available. Within this range there are:

  1. huge potential for extremely high data rate communications – new CMOS devices and processes are beginning to offer the possibility for semiconductor signal processing in this range. With every expectation that these developments will continue we hope to explore the potential and the limitations of multiple communications environments to enable channel modelling and communications protocol development for future terahertz data communications (>2Tb/s). Areas of interest include ultra-small environments (size <1m3) such as those used in electronic system enclosures, superdense wireless databus design for contactless electronics and short range superfast wireless data transfer. We also hope to study terahertz metamaterial structures as both components of such systems and as a communication channel in their own right.

  2. Important opportunities for environmental sensing radar – molecular gases and other forms of matter exhibit strong spectral features in this regime, sometimes referred to as a “terahertz fingerprint”. A radar-like sensing system that would enable spectroscopic sensing of an environment could offer huge benefits in plant safety, security and health arenas. We hope to begin work that would explore the potential for such a system and enable future targeted design for particular operating modes. Whilst commercial devices offering some of these capabilities do exist, the potential for consumer applications in this area is much larger than the current security and research instruments offer. We aim to enable research into novel areas including health monitoring, processes safety (e.g. remote toxic gas sensing) and fabrication processes monitoring.

Our instrument is based on well known principles for ultrafast impulse radio generation using femtosecond lasers as optical gate sources.

Schematic for the THz chanel sounder