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Low-noise THz Niobium SIS Mixers


Bin, Mei (1997) Low-noise THz Niobium SIS Mixers. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/AZYZ-XP41.


This thesis describes the development of low-noise heterodyne receivers at THz frequencies for submillimeter astronomy using Nb-based superconductor-insulator-superconductor (SIS) tunneling junctions. The mixers utilize a quasi-optical configuration which consists of a planar twin-slot antenna and antisymmetrically-fed two-junctions on an antireflection-coated silicon hyperhemispherical lens. On-chip integrated tuning circuits, in the form of microstrip lines, are used to obtain maximum coupling efficiency in the designed frequency band. To reduce the rf losses in the integrated tuning circuits above the superconducting Nb gap frequency (~ 700 GHz), normal-metal Al is used to replace Nb as the tuning circuits.

To account the rf losses in the micros trip lines, we calculated the surface impedance of the AI films using the nonlocal anomalous skin effect for finite thickness films. Nb films were calculated using the Mattis-Bardeen theory in the extreme anomalous limit. Our calculations show that the losses of the Al and Nb microstrip lines are about equal at 830 GHz. For Al-wiring and Nb-wiring mixers both optimized at 1050 GHz, the RF coupling efficiency of Al-wiring mixer is higher than that of Nb-wiring one by almost 50%. We have designed both Nb-wiring and Al-wiring mixers below and above the gap frequency.

A Fourier transform spectrometer (FTS) has been constructed especially for the study of the frequency response of SIS receivers. This FTS features large aperture size (10 inch) and high frequency resolution (114 MHz). The FTS spectra, obtained using the SIS receivers as direct detectors on the FTS, agree quite well with our theoretical simulations. We have also, for the first time, measured the FTS heterodyne response of an SIS mixer at sufficiently high resolution to resolve the LO and the sidebands. Heterodyne measurements of our SIS receivers with Nb-wiring or Al-wiring have yielded results which arc among the best reported to date for broadband heterodyne receivers. The Nb-wiring mixers, covering 400 - 850 GHz band with four separate fixed-tuned mixers, have uncorrected DSB receiver noise temperature around 5hv/kb to 700 GHz, and better than 540 K at 808 GHz. An Al-wiring mixer designed for 1050 GHz band has an uncorrected DSB receiver noise temperature 840 K at 1042 GHz and 2.5 K bath temperature. Mixer performance analysis shows that Nb junctions can work well up to twice the gap frequency and the major cause of loss above the gap frequency is the rf losses in the microstrip tuning structures. Further advances in THz SIS mixers may be possible using circuits fabricated with higher-gap superconductors such as NbN. However, this will require high-quality films with low RF surface resistance at THz frequencies.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:low-noise heterodyne receivers ; THz frequencies ; submillimeter astronomy
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
Major Option:Physics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Phillips, Thomas G.
Group:Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, Astronomy Department
Thesis Committee:
  • Unknown, Unknown
Defense Date:3 October 1996
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:07172014-124951267
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8552
Deposited By: Joy Painter
Deposited On:18 Jul 2014 16:55
Last Modified:10 Mar 2020 22:59

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