Modeling and Design of Photoconductive and Superconductive Terahertz Photomixer Sources
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Terahertz technology is a fast growing field with variety of applications in biology and medicine, medical imaging, material spectroscopy and sensing, monitoring and spectroscopy in pharmaceutical industry, security, and high-data-rate short-range communications. Among different terahertz sources, photomixers are potentially compact, low power consuming, coherent, low-cost, and tunable continuous-wave sources. A terahertz photomixer is a heterodyne scheme, in which two laser beams with their frequency difference falling in the terahertz range mix in a nonlinear medium, such as a photoconductor or a superconductor, and generate a signal, whose frequency is equal to the frequency difference of the two lasers. The frequency of the generated terahertz signal can be tuned by tuning the central frequency of one of the lasers. <br ><br /> In this dissertation, the photomixing in superconductors and photoconductors is studied, and comprehensive analytical models for the interaction of two interfering laser beams with these materials are developed. Integrated photomixer-antenna elements as efficient terahertz sources are introduced and arrays of these elements as high power terahertz sources are designed. Also, an array of photoconductive photomixer-antenna elements with integrated excitation scheme is proposed. <br ><br /> In a photo-excited superconductor, the fundamental equations for the motion of the carriers inside the superconductor material are used in connection with the two-temperature model to find an analytic expression for the generated terahertz photocurrent inside the film. In a photo-excited photoconductor, the continuity equations for the electron and hole densities are solved in their general form along with the appropriate boundary conditions to find photocurrent distribution inside the photoconductor film. It is shown that in a continuous-wave (CW) terahertz photomixing scheme, the resulting photocurrent contains a dc component and a terahertz traveling-wave component. The dependency of the amplitude and the phase of the generated photocurrent on the physical parameters of the photomixer, the parameters of the lasers, the applied dc bias, and the configuration of the device is explored in detail for a photoconductive photomixer made of low-temperature grown (LTG) GaAs and for a high-temperature superconductive photomixer made of YBa<sub>2</sub>Cu<sub>3</sub>O<sub>7-δ</sub>. <br ><br /> The developed models for the photoconductive and the superconductive terahertz photomixers are used to design new integrated photomixer-antenna devices. In these devices, the photomixing film simultaneously acts as an efficient radiator at the terahertz frequencies. Integrating the photomixing medium with the antenna not only eliminates any source to antenna coupling problem, but also makes the proposed device attractive for array configurations. <br ><br /> To increase the generated terahertz power, arrays of the photoconductive and the superconductive photomixer-antenna elements are proposed as CW terahertz sources. It is shown that a sub-milliwatt terahertz power is achievable from a typical superconductive photomixer-antenna array structure. The beam steering capability of the proposed devices is also investigated. <br ><br /> A photoconductive photomixer-antenna array with integrated excitation scheme is proposed, in which the laser beams are guided inside the substrate and excite the photomixer elements. In this way the laser power is only being consumed by the photomixer elements, and the photomixer-antenna elements can be integrated with other optical components on a single substrate. The whole structure is robust and less sensitive to vibration and other environmental parameters.