Nav: Home

Development of high-sensitivity, wide-IF band heterodyne receiver in THz frequency range

September 18, 2020


The National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT, President: TOKUDA Hideyuki, Ph.D.) has developed a unique superconducting hot electron bolometer mixer (HEBM) using magnetic materials. As a result, the noise of the 2 THz band heterodyne receiver has been reduced and the wide IF band has been achieved. The 2 THz band HEBM produced this time has a low noise performance of about 570 K (DSB), which is about 6 times the quantum noise limit, and a wide IF band characteristic of about 6.9 GHz, which is about 3 GHz larger than the conventional structure HEBM. Both of these are world-class performance.

This technology is expected to contribute to the development of new frequency resources such as high-speed wireless communication, non-destructive inspection, global environment measurement, and radio astronomy as basic technology in the THz frequency domain, which is an undeveloped frequency domain.


The terahertz frequency range is an unexplored region and is expected to be applied to high-speed wireless communication, nondestructive inspection, security, medical care, global environment measurement and radio astronomy. However, in order to realize them, it is important to first develop the fundamental technology of oscillation and detection technology.

So far, superconducting SIS mixers have reported excellent heterodyne receiver performance in the lowest noise and wide IF band in the frequency domain up to 1 THz. However, the upper limit frequency of its operation is considered to be about 1.5 THz, and a superconducting hot electron bolometer mixer (HEBM) is currently under research and development as a low-noise mixer element in the frequency region exceeding 1.5 THz.

It has already been reported that HEBM exhibits low-noise receiver operation below 10 times the quantum noise limit in the frequency region above 1.5 THz. However, HEBM had a problem to be solved for its application, because the IF bandwidth, which means the amount of information that can be processed at one time, is narrow. Compared to a superconducting SIS mixer that can secure an IF bandwidth of 20 GHz or more, HEBM was less than a quarter of that, at 3 to 5 GHz. The expansion of the IF bandwidth has great application merits, and there has been a demand for a wider IF bandwidth of HEBM.


NICT has developed a new HEBM structure using magnetic materials as a detection technology, which is a basic technology for terahertz waves, in collaboration with the Advanced ICT Research Institute and the Applied Electromagnetic Research Institute under research collaboration at the Terahertz Technology Research Center. The new HEBM offers low noise performance and wide IF bandwidth at 2 THz.

HEBM has a structure in which a small superconducting thin film piece (superconducting strip) is placed between two metal electrodes and is a mixer that utilizes the strong impedance nonlinearity generated between the superconducting-normal transition (See Figure 1 (a)). This time, we have developed a new HEBM structure unique to NICT that inserts a nickel (Ni) thin film, which is a magnetic material, between the superconducting thin film and metal electrode to leave superconductivity only in the superconducting strip between the electrodes (See Figure 2 (b)). This structure allows HEBM to be further miniaturized and has realized a wider IF band as well as lower detector noise.

Therefore, this time, we prepared a miniaturized HEBM with a superconducting strip length of 0.1 μm and achieved Trx = 570 K (DSB) as the mixer noise temperature corrected for the loss of the input optical system at the measurement frequency of 2 THz. This is an extremely low noise operation that is about 6 times the quantum noise limit. In addition, the IF bandwidth of about 6.9 GHz, which is about 3 GHz larger than that of the conventional HEBM, was obtained, and it was confirmed that the new HEBM structure using magnetic materials is effective in improving the receiver performance (See Figure 3). These results are the results of evaluation at the actual operating temperature of 4 K, and we believe that they have the world's top-level performance as a terahertz band HEBM.

[Future Prospects]

NICT is working on the development of waveguide HEBM with the aim of commercializing 2 THz band HEBM. We aim to apply it to remote sensing technology such as global environment measurement and radio astronomy.

National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT)

Related Superconducting Articles:

Topological superconducting phase protected by 1D local magnetic symmetries
Scientists from China and USA classified 1D gapped topological superconducting quantum wires with local magnetic symmetries (LMSs), in which the time-reversal symmetry is broken but its combinations with certain crystalline symmetries, such as MxT, C2zT, C4zT, and C6zT, are preserved.
Skoltech and MIPT scientists find a rule to predict new superconducting metal hydrides
The search for coveted high-temperature superconductors is going to get easier with a new 'law within a law' discovered by Skoltech and MIPT researchers and their colleagues, who figured out a link between an element's position in the Periodic Table and its potential to form a high-temperature superconducting hydride.
Scientists created an 'impossible' superconducting compound
Scientists have created new superconducting compounds of hydrogen and praseodymium, a rare-earth metal, one substance being quite a surprise from the perspective of classical chemistry.
Quantum technologies: New insights into superconducting processes
Superconductors are regarded as promising components for quantum computers, but so far they only function at very low temperatures.
Superconducting wind turbine chalks up first test success
A superconducting rotor has been successfully tested on an active wind turbine for the first time.
New design strategy can help improve layered superconducting materials
Tokyo, Japan - Scientists from Tokyo Metropolitan University have created a new layered superconducting material with a conducting layer made of bismuth, silver, tin, sulfur and selenium.
Controlling superconducting regions within an exotic metal
Researchers at EPFL have created a metallic microdevice in which they can define and tune patterns of superconductivity.
Evidence of anomalously large superconducting gap on topological surface state of β-Bi2Pd film
Hong Ding's group from the Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Science reported the superconducting gap of topological surface state is larger than that of bulk states in β-Bi2Pd thin films using in-situ angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy and molecular beam epitaxy.
Two advances in understanding the role of 'charge stripes' in superconducting mate
In independent studies, two research teams report important advances in understanding how charge stripes might interact with superconductivity.
Alternative material for superconducting radio-frequency cavity
In modern synchrotron sources and free-electron lasers, superconducting radio-frequency cavity resonators are able to supply electron bunches with extremely high energy.
More Superconducting News and Superconducting Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.