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IC Bridges the “Terahertz Gap” to Break World Record

Nov. 7, 2014
Researchers at Northrop Grumman, under a DARPA contract, developed a terahertz monolithic integrated circuit (TMIC) that uses 10 transistor stages to reach an operating speed of 1 THz.
The terahertz monolithic integrated circuit (TMIC) bridges the gap using a super-scaled, 25-nm gate length, indium-phosphide, high electron mobility transistor. (Image courtesy of DARPA)

Researchers persistently try to detect, process, and radiate the high-frequency terahertz section of the electromagnetic spectrum without having to utilize frequency translation or multiplication. Often referred to as the “terahertz gap,” a team at Northrop Grumman recently developed what Guinness World Records deemed the world’s fasted integrated-circuit amplifier. The amplifier uses 10 transistor stages to reach an operating speed of 1 THz, or one trillion cycles per second.

The terahertz monolithic integrated circuit (TMIC) bridges the gap using a super-scaled, 25-nm gate length, indium-phosphide, high electron mobility transistor. The transistor measures at a gain of 10 dB at 1 THz and 9 dB at 1.03 THz. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funded the research/development of the TMIC. DARPA’s goal was to demonstrate transistor-based electronics operating at 670 GHz, 850 GHz, and 1 THz.

Applications for the technology include high-resolution security imaging systems, improved collision-avoidance radar, communications networks with greater capacity, atmospheric sensing, radio astronomy, and medical imaging. It could also help improve system range and reduce size, weight, and power consumption of existing systems. The amplifier surpasses the company’s previous record of 850 billion cycles per second.

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