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Open Access TERAMIX – Study of Novel Low Noise Superconducting Mixers for Terahertz Radio Astronomy – FP7

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Terahertz heterodyne receivers are valuable tools for molecular gas spectroscopy both for space (radioastronomy, planetary science) and terrestrial applications. They provide both high resolution spectral data, as well as broad bandwidth line survey data. Due to the progress in device physics, such receivers can now reach several THz. At such high radio frequencies, neither electronic nor photonic approaches for THz detectors work, but rather a combination of both is required. Superconducting devices have proven to provide sensitivity levels close to the quantum limit, hf/k. Superconducting Hot- Electron Bolometers (HEB) based on ultrathin NbN and NbTiN films are currently the only devices which are used as mixers for frequencies above 1.2THz (SIS mixer limit). However, their speed (i.e. the instantaneous bandwidth) is limited by the finite electron energy relaxation rate, of 40-100 ps. It corresponds to the bandwidth of maximum 3-4GHz. Such applications in radio astronomy as extragalactic spectroscopy, molecular line survey, require this bandwidth to be doubled to say at least. In this project we investigate response rate in ultra thin MgB2 superconducting films. Preliminary investigation measured the electron-phonon interaction time as short as 1ps. Our recent data, point out on the response rate being limited by the phonon dynamic in the thick films. We develop technology for ultrathin MgB2 film deposition, and processing THz nanobolometers. The response rate is investigated with regards to the film parameters. In particular, the phonon diffusion in superconducting nanobolometers is studied in order to enhance the instantaneous bandwidth of MgB2 mixers. Currently achieved response rate exceeds 10GHz (hence, factor of 3 larger than in NbN). We estimate further expansion of the bandwidth of novel THz detectors, providing completely new functionalities for THz radio astronomical receivers. Other appliation for the fast response rate MgB2 films is with Superconducting Single Photon Detectors, where significantly lower kinetic inductance could be achieved.
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Keywords: Bolometer; Chemical Vapour Deposition; HEB; HPCVD; Hot electron bolometer; Low Noise Superconducting Mixers; Magnesium deboride; MgB2; Molecular gas spectroscopy; Radio astronomy; Superconducting thin films; Terahertz Radio Astronomy; Terahertz heterodyne receivers

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2017

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