The terahertz (THz) band provides unique sensing opportunities that enable several important applications such as biomedical imaging, remote non-destructive inspection of packaged goods, and security screening. THz waves can penetrate most materials and can provide unique spectral information in the 0.1-10 THz band with high resolution. In contrast, other imaging modalities, like infrared (IR), suffer from low penetration depths and are thus not attractive for non-destructive evaluation. However, state-of-the-art THz imaging systems typically employ mechanical raster scans using a single detector to acquire two-dimensional images. Such devices tend to be bulky and complicated due to the mechanical parts, and are thus rather expensive to develop and operate.
Thus, large-format (e.g. 100×100 pixels) and all-electronics based THz imaging systems are badly needed to alleviate the space, weight and power (SWAP) factors and enable cost effective utilization of THz waves for sensing and high-data-rate communications. In contrast, photonic sensors are very compact because light can couple directly to the photodiode without residing to radiation coupling topologies. However, in the THz band, due to the longer wavelengths and much lower photon energies, highly efficient antennas with optimized input impedance have to be integrated with THz sensors.
Here, we implement novel antenna engineering techniques that are optimized to take advantage of recent technological advances in solid-state THz sensing devices. For example, large-format focal plane arrays (FPAs) have been the Achilles’ heel of THz imaging systems. Typically, optical components (lenses, mirrors) are employed in order to improve the optical performance of FPAs, however, antenna sensors suffer from degraded performance when they are far from the optical axis, thus minimizing the number of useful FPA elements. By modifying the radiation pattern of FPA antennas we manage to alleviate the off-axis aberration. Additionally, a butterfly-shaped antenna layout is introduced that enables broadband imaging. The alternative design presented here, allows for video-rate imaging in the 0.6 – 1.2 THz band and maintains a small antenna footprint, resulting in densely packed FPAs. In both antenna designs, we optimize the impedance matching between the antennas and the integrated electronic devices, thus achieving optimum responsivity levels for high sensitivity and low noise performance. Subsequently, we present the design details of the first THz camera and the first THz camera images captured. With the realized THz camera, imaging of concealed objects is achieved with <1mm diffraction limited spatial resolution. Moreover, motivated by the THz camera’s real-time image acquisition, we developed the first camera-based THz computer tomography system that allows rapid cross-sectional imaging (~2 min).
For the design and analysis of the THz camera performance, we developed an in-house hybrid electromagnetic model, combining full-wave and high-frequency computational methods. The antenna radiation and impedance computation is first carried out using full-wave modeling of the FPA. Subsequently, we employ scalar diffraction theory to compute the field distribution at any point in space. Thus, the hybrid electromagnetic model allows fast and accurate design of THz antennas and modeling of the complete THz imaging system.
Finally, motivated by the novel THz antenna layouts and the quasioptical techniques, we developed a novel non-contact probe measurement method for on-chip device characterization. In the THz regime, traditional contact probes are too small and fragile, thus inhibiting accurate and reliable circuit measurements. By integrating the device under test (DUT) with THz antennas that act as the measurement probes, we may couple the incident and reflected signal from and to the network analyzer without residing to any physical connection.