Northrop Grumman has developed and demonstrated an 850GHz integrated receiver under the second phase of the US Defense Advanced Research Project Agency's (DARPA) Terahertz Electronics programme.
The milestone brings Northrop closer to becoming the first company to reach the US Department of Defense's (DoD) goal of producing transistor-based electronics, which are capable of operating at more than one terahertz (THz) frequencies.
Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems sector Terahertz Electronics programme manager Dr William Deal said that by operating at beyond one THz frequencies, the integrated circuits would offer submillimetre wave technology for secret, small aperture communications, high-resolution imaging and advancements in explosive detection spectroscopy.
"This unprecedented increase in integrated circuit operating speed is especially important for emerging applications in military communications and radar," Dr Deal said.
"The amplifiers and receivers we're demonstrating will enable more sensitive radar and produce sensors with highly improved resolution."
The company has already developed a terahertz monolithic integrated circuit as part of the programme's phase 1 in 2010, which operated at 670GHz (0.67 trillion cycles/sec), in addition to producing and testing low-noise amplifiers and power amplifiers.
"Success in the initial phase led to a $12.5 million contract, bringing the total value of the program to $28 million," Dr Deal added.
Terahertz Electronics programme aims to produce critical device and integration technologies required for ensuring development of compact, high-performance electronic circuits capable of operating at 1.03THz frequencies.
The programme particularly focuses on developments of two critical THz technical aspects, which include THz transistor electronics and high power amplifier modules.
If successful, the programme will enable systematic THz processing techniques, such as THz imaging systems, ultra-wideband, ultra-high-capacity communication links and sub-MMW, single-chip widely-tunable synthesisers for explosive detection spectroscopy.
Image: Development of 1.03THz integrated circuits will provide US soldiers with an advantage in RF spectrum. Photo: courtesy of DARPA.