UK universities open up the THz spectrum with £6.5m project

July 17, 2013 // By Julien Happich
Three of the UK's Russell Group universities are joining together to unlock the underused and unchartered terahertz (THz) region of the electromagnetic spectrum, the last unexploited part of the airwaves.

UCL, Cambridge and Leeds Universities are pioneering research through a project called COTS (Coherent Terahertz Systems), funded by a £6.5m Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) grant.

Lying between radio and optical frequencies, the bandwidth available is some 30 times greater than the entire allocated radio spectrum. Within 10 years it is expected there will be widespread applications using THz ranging from ultra-broadband wireless technology for indoor “super Wi-Fi” to THz sensing and imaging systems in production control, security and medical applications.

The UK has pioneered the exploitation of the THz spectrum through companies such as Teraview, and is well placed to exploit the outcomes from this Programme to benefit the UK economy.

The main reason why this resource has been so little used so far is the complexity, bulk, high power consumption and lack of coherence of current THz technologies. The COTS programme brings together the world leading teams that have pioneered THz quantum cascade lasers, microwave photonics and THz quantum state control to open up the THz spectrum for widespread scientific and commercial application, through the use for the first time of photonics-enabled coherent techniques.

An integrated terahertz detector – courtesy the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at UCL.