Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Peppered with gold

16.03.2020

Research team presents novel transmitter for terahertz waves

Terahertz waves are becoming ever more important in science and technology. They enable us to unravel the properties of future materials, test the quality of automotive paint and screen envelopes. But generating these waves is still a challenge. A team at Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR), TU Dresden and the University of Konstanz has now made significant progress.


Terahertz wave

Photo: HZDR / Juniks

The researchers have developed a germanium component that generates short terahertz pulses with an advantageous property: the pulses have an extreme broadband spectrum and thus deliver many different terahertz frequencies at the same time.

As it has been possible to manufacture the component employing methods already used in the semiconductor industry, the development promises a broad range of applications in research and technology, as the team reports in the journal Light: Science & Applications (DOI: 10.1038/s41377-020-0265-4).

Just like light, terahertz waves are categorized as electromagnetic radiation. In the spectrum, they fall right between microwaves and infrared radiation. But while microwaves and infrared radiation have long since entered our everyday lives, terahertz waves are only just beginning to be used.

The reason is that experts have only been able to construct reasonably acceptable sources for terahertz waves since the beginning of the 2000s. But these transmitters are still not perfect – they are relatively large and expensive, and the radiation they emit does not always have the desired properties.

One of the established generation methods is based on a gallium-arsenide crystal. If this semiconductor crystal is irradiated with short laser pulses, gallium arsenide charge carriers are formed. These charges are accelerated by applying voltage which enforces the generation of a terahertz wave – basically the same mechanism as in a VHF transmitter mast where moving charges produce radio waves.

However, this method has a number of drawbacks: “It can only be operated with relatively expensive special lasers,” explains HZDR physicist Dr. Harald Schneider. “With standard lasers of the type we use for fiber-optic communications, it doesn’t work.” Another shortcoming is that gallium-arsenide crystals only deliver relatively narrowband terahertz pulses and thus a restricted frequency range – which significantly limits the application area.

Precious metal implants

That is why Schneider and his team are placing their bets on another material – the semiconductor germanium. “With germanium we can use less expensive lasers known as fiber lasers,” says Schneider. “Besides, germanium crystals are very transparent and thus facilitate the emission of very broadband pulses.”

But, so far, they have had a problem: If you irradiate pure germanium with a short laser pulse, it takes several microseconds before the electrical charge in the semiconductor disappears. Only then can the crystal absorb the next laser pulse. Today's lasers, however, can fire off their pulses at intervals of a few dozen nanoseconds - a sequence of shots far too fast for germanium.

In order to overcome this difficulty, experts searched for a way of making the electrical charges in the germanium vanish more quickly. And they found the answer in a prominent precious metal – gold. “We used an ion accelerator to shoot gold atoms into a germanium crystal,” explains Schneider’s colleague, Dr. Abhishek Singh. “The gold penetrated the crystal to a depth of 100 nanometers.” The scientists then heated the crystal for several hours at 900 degrees Celsius. The heat treatment ensured the gold atoms were evenly distributed in the germanium crystal.

Success kicked in when the team illuminated the peppered germanium with ultrashort laser pulses: instead of hanging around in the crystal for several microseconds, the electrical charge carriers disappeared again in under two nanoseconds – about thousand times faster than before. Figuratively speaking, the gold works like a trap, helping to catch and neutralize the charges. “Now the germanium crystal can be bombarded with laser pulses at a high repetition rate and still function,” Singh is pleased to report.

Inexpensive manufacture possible

The new method facilitates terahertz pulses with an extremely broad bandwidth: instead of 7 terahertz using the established gallium-arsenide technique, it is now ten times greater – 70 terahertz. “We get a broad, continuous, gapless spectrum in one fell swoop”, Harald Schneider enthuses. “This means we have a really versatile source at hand that can be used for the most diverse applications.” Another benefit is that, effectively, germanium components can be processed with the same technology that is used for microchips. “Unlike gallium arsenide, germanium is silicon compatible,” Schneider notes. “And as the new components can be operated together with standard fiber-optic lasers, you could make the technology fairly compact and inexpensive.”

This should turn gold-doped germanium into an interesting option not just for scientific applications, such as the detailed analysis of innovative two-dimensional materials such as graphene, but also for applications in medicine and environmental technology. One could imagine sensors, for instance, that trace certain gases in the atmosphere by means of their terahertz spectrum. Today’s terahertz sources are still too expensive for the purpose. The new methods, developed in Dresden-Rossendorf, could help to make environmental sensors like this much cheaper in the future.

Publication:

A. Singh, A. Pashkin, S. Winnerl, M. Welsch, C. Beckh, P. Sulzer, A. Leitenstorfer, M. Helm, H. Schneider: Up to 70 THz bandwidth from an implanted Ge photoconductive antenna excited by a femtosecond Er:fibre laser, in Light: Science & Applications, 2020 (DOI: 10.1038/s41377-020-0265-4)

Additional information:

Dr. Harald Schneider
Institute of Ion Beam Physics and Materials Research at HZDR
Phone: +49 351 260 2880 | Email: h.schneider@hzdr.de

Dr. Alexej Pashkin
Institute of Ion Beam Physics and Materials Research at HZDR
Phone: +49 351 260 3287 | email: a.pashkin@hzdr.de

Media contact:

Simon Schmitt | Science Editor
Phone: +49 351 260-3400 | email: s.schmitt@hzdr.de

Dr. Christine Bohnet | Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf
Further information:
https://www.hzdr.de/db/Cms?pNid=99&pOid=60476

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Return of the Blob: Surprise link found to edge turbulence in fusion plasma
27.05.2020 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

nachricht NIST researchers boost microwave signal stability a hundredfold
26.05.2020 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Biotechnology: Triggered by light, a novel way to switch on an enzyme

In living cells, enzymes drive biochemical metabolic processes enabling reactions to take place efficiently. It is this very ability which allows them to be used as catalysts in biotechnology, for example to create chemical products such as pharmaceutics. Researchers now identified an enzyme that, when illuminated with blue light, becomes catalytically active and initiates a reaction that was previously unknown in enzymatics. The study was published in "Nature Communications".

Enzymes: they are the central drivers for biochemical metabolic processes in every living cell, enabling reactions to take place efficiently. It is this very...

Im Focus: New double-contrast technique picks up small tumors on MRI

Early detection of tumors is extremely important in treating cancer. A new technique developed by researchers at the University of California, Davis offers a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from normal tissue. The work is published May 25 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

researchers at the University of California, Davis offers a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from...

Im Focus: I-call - When microimplants communicate with each other / Innovation driver digitization - "Smart Health“

Microelectronics as a key technology enables numerous innovations in the field of intelligent medical technology. The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT coordinates the BMBF cooperative project "I-call" realizing the first electronic system for ultrasound-based, safe and interference-resistant data transmission between implants in the human body.

When microelectronic systems are used for medical applications, they have to meet high requirements in terms of biocompatibility, reliability, energy...

Im Focus: When predictions of theoretical chemists become reality

Thomas Heine, Professor of Theoretical Chemistry at TU Dresden, together with his team, first predicted a topological 2D polymer in 2019. Only one year later, an international team led by Italian researchers was able to synthesize these materials and experimentally prove their topological properties. For the renowned journal Nature Materials, this was the occasion to invite Thomas Heine to a News and Views article, which was published this week. Under the title "Making 2D Topological Polymers a reality" Prof. Heine describes how his theory became a reality.

Ultrathin materials are extremely interesting as building blocks for next generation nano electronic devices, as it is much easier to make circuits and other...

Im Focus: Rolling into the deep

Scientists took a leukocyte as the blueprint and developed a microrobot that has the size, shape and moving capabilities of a white blood cell. Simulating a blood vessel in a laboratory setting, they succeeded in magnetically navigating the ball-shaped microroller through this dynamic and dense environment. The drug-delivery vehicle withstood the simulated blood flow, pushing the developments in targeted drug delivery a step further: inside the body, there is no better access route to all tissues and organs than the circulatory system. A robot that could actually travel through this finely woven web would revolutionize the minimally-invasive treatment of illnesses.

A team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS) in Stuttgart invented a tiny microrobot that resembles a white blood cell...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium AWK'21 will take place on June 10 and 11, 2021

07.04.2020 | Event News

International Coral Reef Symposium in Bremen Postponed by a Year

06.04.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

New 5G switch provides 50 times more energy efficiency than currently exists

27.05.2020 | Information Technology

Return of the Blob: Surprise link found to edge turbulence in fusion plasma

27.05.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

Upwards with the “bubble shuttle”: How sea floor microbes get involved with methane reduction in the water column

27.05.2020 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>