Samuel Lara-AvilaBeyond superconductors, there are few materials that can fulfill the requirements needed for making ultra-sensitive and fast terahertz (THz) detectors for astronomy. Chalmers researchers have shown that engineered graphene adds a new material paradigm for THz heterodyne detection.
“Graphene might be the only known material that remains an excellent conductor of electricity/heat even when having, effectively, no electrons. We have reached a near zero-electron scenario in graphene, also called Dirac point, by assembling electron-accepting molecules on its surface. Our results show that graphene is an exceptionally good material for THz heterodyne detection when doped to the Dirac point”, says Samuel Lara-Avila (to the right), assistant professor at the Quantum Device Physics Laboratory and lead author of the paper.
“According to our theoretical model, this graphene THz detector has a potential to reach quantum-limited operation for the important 1-5 THz spectral range. Moreover, the bandwidth can exceed 20 GHz, larger than 5 GHz that the state-of-the-art technology has to offer.”
“With the scalability of epitaxial graphene, the prospect with the high sensitivity, large bandwidth, and the very low local oscillator power requirements, it is tempting to envision building a large matrix of THz sensors able to measure the THz signal power down to single-photon level, and the frequency down to 10 millionth fraction. Such arrays could allow imaging large portions of star-forming clouds, and nearby galaxies, in orders-of-magnitude shorter times.”
“This graphene-based technology has enormous potential for future space missions that aim at e.g. unveiling how water, carbon, oxygen and life itself came to earth. A lightweight, power effective 3D imager that is quantum-limited at terahertz frequencies is crucial for such ambitious tasks. But, at the moment, THz 3D imagers are simply not available”.
“The core of the THz detector is the system of graphene and molecular assemblies. This is in itself a novel composite 2D material that deserves deeper investigation from a fundamental point of view, as it displays a whole new regime of charge/heat transport governed by quantum-mechanical effects.”