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Development of niobium nitride hot electron bolometric mixer for terahertz frequencies: The phonon-cooled version

Eyal Gerecht, University of Massachusetts Amherst


NbN HEB mixers represent a promising approach for achieving receiver noise temperatures of a few times the quantum noise limit at frequencies above 1 THz. NbN HEB devices have been shown to have sufficient bandwidth for applications in astronomy, remote sensing, and plasma diagnostics in the FIR range. The NbN HEB is a phonon cooled bolometer in which the energy is transfered from the hot electrons to the substrate via inelastic collisions with phonons. The development of an NbN HEB mixer contained two steps: (1) implementing mixing in a comparatively large "direct-coupled" prototype device which required LO power of a few milliwatts, and (2) optimization of the first step by the development of an "antenna-coupled" (quasi-optically coupled) device with an LO power level of less than one $\mu W$. The LO power was coupled to the antenna via an extended hemispherical lens (1.3 mm in diameter). The design, fabrication, and measurement stages were performed by a collaborative effort between a Russian team from the Department of Physics at Moscow State Pedagogical University in Moscow, the Submillimeter Technology Laboratory at UMass/Lowell and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UMass/Amherst. Mixing at 2.5 THz was demonstrated for the first time using the direct-coupled device achieving an intrinsic conversion loss of 23 dB. Sufficient level of LO power coupling at four different frequencies was demonstrated with the antenna-coupled device. The antenna/lens configuration has performed as well as expected insuring coupling to LO power of less than one $\mu$W. A 3 dB conversion gain was demonstrated with the antenna-coupled device using a laser LO at 1.56 THz with an IF frequency of 500 KHz. A second laser was utilized as the rf source. Noise temperature for the NbN HEB mixer receiver of 5800 K has been demonstrated over the 1.25-1.75 GHz IF band. The mixer temperature was 2500 K and the total conversion loss was 27 dB. Further optimization of the receiver configuration and device fabrication as well as additional development in mixer modeling will gradually lead to lower noise temperatures.

Subject Area

Electrical engineering|Astronomy|Astrophysics|Electromagnetism

Recommended Citation

Gerecht, Eyal, "Development of niobium nitride hot electron bolometric mixer for terahertz frequencies: The phonon-cooled version" (1998). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9841871.