Tiny Terahertz Modulator to Fill the THz Gap

Wireless technology isn’t just the future; it’s the present. Every day more and more devices are appearing that rely on wireless capabilities to succeed. And therein lies the problem: with so many devices vying to get online at once, a decrease in speed is inevitable (and incredibly frustrating). Luckily, it looks like some intrepid scientists have figured out a way to get all the speed we need for our digital devices.

Researchers at Tufts University in Massachusetts have invented a high-speed modulator designed to provide the wireless networks we need without using a prohibitive amount of power. The modulator is about the size of a chip, and operates at terahertz (THz) frequencies. Considering that terahertz waves can deliver wireless data at a rate of 100 gigabits per second (whereas most US broadband stalls out around 55), it’s easy to see why people are so interested in reining in terahertz power.

Unfortunately, the ‘THz gap’ has always prevented scientists from taking advantage of these incredibly fast speeds — until now. The modulator allows users to alter the THz waves so that they can transfer astonishing amounts of data per second. The design is an essential factor: the modulator is only 100 micrometers long, and comes with two gold strands of wire. These are used as a waveguide for the device as a whole. Two-dimensional electron gas is placed beneath the wires to dampen the waves on their journey. This is a crucial element to the device’s success: altering the number of electrons used in the gas allows researchers to have an amazing level of control over how much of the THz waves are absorbed into the gas. The level of absorption lets the scientists modulate them as needed. The result? Shockingly fast internet service for all.

If only it were that easy. While this new design is indeed groundbreaking, a new network capable of handling all these terahertz waves is now required. Additionally, terahertz waves are easily absorbable by pretty much everything; this makes it problematic at best for long-distance communication.

Despite these complications, it looks like this tiny chip is the next major step forward in wireless communications. Once mass production has been achieved, the possibilities are virtually endless.

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