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Silicon-Based Terahertz Circuits and Systems


Sengupta, Kaushik (2012) Silicon-Based Terahertz Circuits and Systems. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/MBXB-6R29.


The Terahertz frequency range, often referred to as the `Terahertz' gap, lies wedged between microwave at the lower end and infrared at the higher end of the spectrum, occupying frequencies between 0.3-3.0 THz. For a long time, applications in THz frequencies had been limited to astronomy and chemical sciences, but with advancement in THz technology in recent years, it has shown great promise in a wide range of applications ranging from disease diagnostics, non-invasive early skin cancer detection, label-free DNA sequencing to security screening for concealed weapons and contraband detection, global environmental monitoring, nondestructive quality control and ultra-fast wireless communication. Up until recently, the terahertz frequency range has been mostly addressed by high mobility compound III-V processes, expensive nonlinear optics, or cryogenically cooled quantum cascade lasers. A low cost, room temperature alternative can enable the development of such a wide array of applications, not currently accessible due to cost and size limitations. In this thesis, we will discuss our approach towards development of integrated terahertz technology in silicon-based processes. In the spirit of academic research, we will address frequencies close to 0.3 THz as 'Terahertz'.

In this thesis, we address both fronts of integrated THz systems in silicon: THz power generation, radiation and transmitter systems, and THz signal detection and receiver systems. THz power generation in silicon-based integrated circuit technology is challenging due to lower carrier mobility, lower cut-o frequencies compared to compound III-V processes, lower breakdown voltages and lossy passives. Radiation from silicon chip is also challenging due to lossy substrates and high dielectric constant of silicon. In this work, we propose novel ways of combining circuit and electromagnetic techniques in a holistic design approach, which can overcome limitations of conventional block-by-block or partitioned design methodology, in order to generate high-frequency signals above the classical definition of cut-off frequencies (ƒt/ƒmax). We demonstrate this design philosophy in an active electromagnetic structure, which we call Distributed Active Radiator. It is inspired by an Inverse Maxwellian approach, where instead of using classical circuit and electromagnetic blocks to generate and radiate THz frequencies, we formulate surface (metal) currents in silicon chip for a desired THz field prole and develop active means of controlling different harmonic currents to perform signal generation, frequency multiplication, radiation and lossless filtering, simultaneously in a compact footprint. By removing the articial boundaries between circuits, electromagnetics and antenna, we open ourselves to a broader design space. This enabled us to demonstrate the rst 1 mW Eective-isotropic-radiated-power(EIRP) THz (0.29 THz) source in CMOS with total radiated power being three orders of magnitude more than previously demonstrated. We also proposed a near-field synchronization mechanism, which is a scalable method of realizing large arrays of synchronized autonomous radiating sources in silicon. We also demonstrate the first THz CMOS array with digitally controlled beam-scanning in 2D space with radiated output EIRP of nearly 10 mW at 0.28 THz.

On the receiver side, we use a similar electronics and electromagnetics co-design approach to realize a 4x4 pixel integrated silicon Terahertz camera demonstrating to the best of our knowledge, the most sensitive silicon THz detector array without using post-processing, silicon lens or high-resistivity substrate options (NEP < 10 pW √ Hz at 0.26 THz). We put the 16 pixel silicon THz camera together with the CMOS DAR THz power generation arrays and demonstrated, for the first time, an all silicon THz imaging system with a CMOS source.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:High-frequency circuits, terahertz, silicon ICs, onchip radiation, surface waves
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Electrical Engineering
Awards:Charles Wilts Prize, 2013
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Hajimiri, Ali
Thesis Committee:
  • Hajimiri, Ali (chair)
  • Yang, Changhuei
  • Emami, Azita
  • Weinreb, Sander
  • Choo, Hyuck
Defense Date:31 May 2012
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Air Force Research LaboratoryUNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:06112012-145654043
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:7158
Deposited By: Kaushik Sengupta
Deposited On:12 Jun 2012 21:39
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 23:56

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