Terahertz Detectors and Imaging Arrays with In-Pixel Low-Noise Amplification and Filtering in CMOS technologies

PhD Candidate Muhammad Ali

April 20, 2017
Versione stampabile

Time: April 20, 2017, h. 14:30 pm
Location: Room Ofek, Polo scientifico e tecnologico “Fabio Ferrari”, Building Povo 1 - Povo (Trento)

PhD Candidate

Dr. Muhammad Ali

Abstract of Dissertation

Terahertz gap corresponding to the frequency band of 0.3-3.0 THz is historically the last unexplored region of the electromagnetic spectrum left to be fully investigated. The major difficulty that has hampered the maturation of technologies operating in this region lies in the fact that much unlike its bordering millimeter and infrared regions, generation and detection of THz radiation is not trivial. Yet, such is the intriguing nature and properties of the terahertz radiations that the interest in this region has not faded. Infact, potential applications of THz based systems have emerged in various fields including biomedical imaging, safety and security, quality control and communication.

Over the past decade, a lot of research work has been published with an aim to bridge this gap by both electronics and photonics based systems. While these attempts have succeeded to a certain extent, the available solutions either lack in terms of performance or are mostly bulky and difficult to integrate for portable and commercial purpose.
This PhD dissertation focuses on the design and investigation of direct terahertz detectors which could be operated at room temperature and fabricated in standard silicon technologies, thereby making use of several advantages like high level of integration, low cost and small device size that these technologies have to offer. In particular, the emphasis is on developing and characterizing terahertz systems for imaging application by using field effect transistor devices as detectors. This objective is pursued in three parts.
The first part (chapter 3) of the dissertation deals with the measurement and characterization challenges of terahertz systems. Unlike guided mode solutions, measurements of terahertz detectors and their systems require free space which presents several challenges due to atmospheric attenuation, spurious reflections and diffractions, beam shaping, and so on. Moreover, background noise is also significant considering that the detected signal is typically in the order of a few microvolts. In this regard, an overview of the most common techniques is given and a measurement methodology involving the use of a reference pyroelectric detector to measure the impinging input power and techniques for the evaluation of the detector under-test effective area is presented.

The second part (chapter 4) is related to the investigation of variants of antenna-coupled field effect transistor and schottky barrier diode in standard 180 nm CMOS process as examples of direct detectors. During laboratory characterization, detection of terahertz radiation from schottky diode could not be achieved due to matching issues. Moreover, optimization of schottky diode by modifying its standard cell proved to be challenging as compared to field effect transistor, which can be optimized easily to enhance performance parameters and was therefore finally chosen as the preferred choice.  

 The final part of the thesis (chapters 5 and 6) concerns with the implementation of analog readout interface to perform signal processing of detected terahertz signal. First, a single pixel consisting of on-chip antenna-coupled detector and a switched capacitor based filtering operation is designed and fabricated in 0.15μm process. The pixel is tested by performing both electrical and terahertz characterization, achieving high voltage responsivity value of 470 kV/W and a minimum NEP of 480 pW/sqrt (Hz). The interface architecture is highly repeatable and it can be used with any commercially terahertz source, even if its operation is limited by low modulation frequency. On the basis of the successful measurement results, an 8 x 6 terahertz array for real-time imaging application is fabricated in the same technology by modifying the interface architecture to make it power and area efficient.