A reconfigurable terahertz sensing and sounding platform
In future mobile communication systems in the evolution from 5G to the 6G mobile communications standard as well as in the wireless networking of digital infrastructure in the domestic, industrial as well as in the high mobile environment, both the higher frequencies in the millimeter wave range (mmWave) and in the terahertz range (THz) will gain in importance due to their enormous bandwidths. The focus of mmWave and THz systems with bandwidths of up to 10 gigahertz will not be limited on the extremely high data rates of over 100 gigabits per second, but also on the combination of different applications. Examples include radar applications and communication functionality in a system, health care applications in smart devices to support people with disabilities as well as for better medical care in the home environment in the THz frequency range, wireless structure recognition and hyper-precise localization. Intensive efforts in standardization for systems in the mmWave range (5G NR FR2) are currently underway.
Electromagnetic waves in the mmWave and THz range are at the same time very well suited for different problems in the field of sensing, particularly also in the field of nondestructive testing methods. Compared to alternative modalities, several fundamental advantages come into effect here. First, electromagnetic waves in the THz range have very good penetration properties of certain non-conductive materials such as plastics. Combined with the very short wavelengths and the very high available bandwidth, this results in an extraordinarily good spatial resolution, which enables high-resolution imaging as well as precise spectroscopy. Thus, even the smallest defects and anomalies can be detected. Another advantage, especially in comparison with X-ray technology, is the non-hazardous nature: Due to the low radiation energy of electromagnetic waves in the low THz and sub-THz range (~0.4135 meV at 0.1 THz), ionizing interaction with biological matter can be ruled out. That means significantly lower work safety requirements and excellent suitability for portable in-situ measurement systems.
The aim of the project is to develop and procure an adaptive hardware platform in the THz frequency range that can be used for both sensing and sounding applications. Frequencies in the submillimeter wave range from 110 to 220 gigahertz are to be addressed, which, as a result of the very short wavelengths and the available large bandwidths, are attractive candidates for high-resolution sensing applications, for example nondestructive testing methods, and future radio communication, such as the 6G mobile communication standard.
Using a dual polarized front-end and broadband signal acquisition in the baseband, for example, material testing measurements can be performed with a very high level of detail and accuracy, as well as characterization measurements of the radio channel in a wide variety of environments with high precision.
The project was supported by the Thuringian Ministry for Economic Affairs, Science and Digital Society and co-financed by grants from the European Union under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).