Terahertz beams to complement sensors for autonomous cars

February 13, 2019 //By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Terahertz beams to complement sensors for autonomous cars
Error-free and comprehensive environment recognition is an indispensable prerequisite for autonomous driving. Novel sensors based on terahertz radiation could be an ideal candidate for this. The University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) is now developing such sensors. The key is indium phosphide.

The electronic and photonic sensors available on the market today for environment detection (position, distance, speed) have limits, for example in fog, with dirty lenses or otherwise obscured vision. In addition, they do not yet work with the required accuracy. The UDE professors Dr. Nils Weimann, Dr. Andreas Stöhr and Dr. Thomas Kaiser are therefore researching innovative transistors and infrared components that should no longer have these limitations - because they work in the terahertz and infrared range. With two new systems and instruments for high-frequency measurement up to 1.5 terahertz, they want to develop such sensors.

The terahertz range of the electromagnetic spectrum is interesting for many applications. Between 300 gigahertz and a few terahertz, the waves penetrate through material and organic tissue safely for humans. Ideal for detecting hidden objects. However, terahertz sensors are not yet suitable for mass production - the necessary chips require a special semiconductor material: indium phosphide. In this material, the electrons can move faster than in the commonly used silicon. It is also suitable for the manufacture of efficient opto-electronic terahertz components. The required technologies are being researched and developed at the UDE's Center for Semiconductor Technology and Optoelectronics (ZHO).

In addition to the automotive industry, such sensors could also bring advantages in a number of other fields of application, such as medical technology and mechanical engineering.


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