Covering all the angles
Terahertz waves leak out of a small slit in the antenna at different angles, depending
on frequency. The receiver can be tuned to select one angle, plucking a single data
channel from a stream containing many channels. Mittleman lab/Brown University
(September 14, 2015) Terahertz waves, operating at a much higher frequency than microwaves, could one day be used to carry data many times faster than today’s cellular and Wi-Fi networks. More work needs to be done before terahertz technology is deployed, but a Brown-led research team has made progress on one important part: multiplexing and de-multiplexing a terahertz stream.
Terahertz radiation could one day provide the backbone for wireless systems that can deliver data up to one hundred times faster than today’s cellular or Wi-Fi networks. But there remain many technical challenges to be solved before terahertz wireless is ready for prime time.
Researchers from Brown University have taken a major step toward addressing one of those challenges. They’ve developed what they believe to be the first system for multiplexing terahertz waves. Multiplexers are devices that enable separate streams of data to travel through a single medium. It’s the technology that makes it possible for a single cable to carry multiple TV channels or for a fiber optic line to carry thousands of phone calls at the same time.
“Any terahertz communications application is going to need some form of multiplexing and demultiplexing,” said Daniel Mittleman, professor of engineering at Brown and senior author of a paper describing the new device. “This is, to our knowledge, the first time anyone has demonstrated a viable strategy for multiplexing in the terahertz range.”
The research was published September 14 in Nature Photonics.
Today’s cellular and Wi-Fi networks rely on microwaves to carry voice conversations and data. But the increasing demands for data transfer are quickly becoming more than microwaves can handle. Terahertz waves have a much higher frequency and therefore more potential bandwidth. Scientists and engineers have only recently begun exploring the potential of terahertz waves, however. As a result, many of the components for a terahertz wireless network — including multiplexers — have not yet been developed.