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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/M016269/1
Title: Micromachined Circuits For Terahertz Communications
Principal Investigator: Lancaster, Professor M
Other Investigators:
Dimov, Professor SS Feresidis, Dr A Huang, Dr F
Constantinou, Professor CC Cherniakov, Professor M Gardner, Professor P
Gashinova, Dr M Huggard, Dr P
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
BAE Systems Elite Antennas Ltd Farran Technology Ltd
Plextek Queen's University of Belfast Teratech Components Ltd
Department: Electronic, Electrical and Computer Eng
Organisation: University of Birmingham
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 22 June 2015 Ends: 22 December 2018 Value (£): 1,067,139
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
RF & Microwave Technology
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Electronics Communications
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
02 Dec 2014 EPSRC ICT Prioritisation Panel - Dec 2014 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
EPSRC have a delivery plan to align their portfolio to areas of UK strengths and national importance and have designated a number of 'Grow' areas. This application addresses two of these areas: 'RF and microwave communications' and 'RF and microwave devices', specifically matching the terahertz technology aspect of the latter.

Why has EPSRC highlighted these areas? The answer is that society is evolving with a continuously increasing demand for the exchange of digital information. There is an expectation that everyone will be permanently connected to the Internet, no matter where they are. People are expecting that more information of a higher quality is delivered immediately: therefore newer services are requiring higher and higher data volumes and transfer rates. On demand video is an excellent example, with in-home delivery with standard definition now common place and demonstrations of new 4k on demand video now taking place. The data rates expected for these services are vast and the infrastructure needs adapt to cope.

One way to achieve this is to move to higher frequencies for wireless links. We propose to demonstrate new building block components for such a communications system, designing and building these on an entirely new basis. A frequency of 300 GHz is chosen as it is at the cusp of technology; systems are now being deployed at frequencies below about 100 GHz where as systems approaching 1000 GHz are some years away because of the lack of active circuits. The components will also be applicable in radar and sensing scenarios. Once the individual components have been demonstrated, a full communications system will be designed, built and tested. There are very few demonstrations of communication systems at 300 GHz and the unique design methodology will provide a world-class demonstration.

Three groups are collaborating in this project: the Fraunhofer Institute in Freiburg, Germany (IAF), and it the UK the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) and Birmingham University. All partners have substantial design and measurement capabilities at these very high frequencies. IAF are world leaders in the production of submillimetre wave integrated circuits and will be supplying transistors for the amplifiers. RAL will deliver world class Schottky barrier and the University of Birmingham has advanced micromachining capabilities.

At Birmingham a new interconnect principle has been developed to link the Schottky diodes and transistors. Instead of using wires and their analogues, hollow waveguide tube based resonant cavities will be used. Currently 300 GHz components are mounting in conventionally milled gold pated blocks. The required waveguide dimensions are about 0.8 mm by 0.4 mm. Although conventional milling machines can machine this, once internal structures for resonators are required, milling becomes difficult or impossible. A technology that can be used for the waveguide cavities, and for smaller resonators at higher frequencies, is micromachining. Birmingham University have demonstrated micromachined waveguides, filters, diplexers and antennas at and above 300 GHz. This technology is now ready for the next step, which is the inclusion of active and non-linear devices. The micromachining work at Birmingham has been done by a number of techniques, the primarily technique is by etching an ultraviolet sensitive photoresist called SU8. This allows a pattern to be defined photolithographically by a mask and then etching sections produces the waveguide. The final structure is made by bonding a number of SU8 etched layers together and then metal coating them. The performance of the SU8 waveguides has been shown to be as good as metal. Other techniques for micromachining circuits will be investigated in order to find the optimum solution.

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Organisation Website: http://www.bham.ac.uk