Direct Detector for Terahertz Radiation

Technology Summary

There has been much interest expressed in terahertz technology due to the diverse range of applications that it applies to.  However, the terahertz components have been known to perform poorly due to it lying between traditional electronic and photonic fields.  Sandia National Laboratories has created a direct detector for terahertz radiation that seeks to close the "technological gap". 


The present invention is a direct detector that is a depletion mode field-effect transistor built from heterostructures and consisting of electrical contacts and a grating-gate.  The grating gate tunes the electron density of the detector and adjusts the Plasmon frequency to match the THz radiation illuminating the device.  The detector shows a photoresponse when the Plasmon frequency under the grating gate was turned to the frequency of the incident illumination, a capability not found in other terahertz devices. 


  • Plasoms are not tied to the bandgap energy and can be excited by small THz photon energies
  • Plasmons can be excited at high temperatures than the THz photon energy
  • Detector is easier to produce and control
  • Easier to integrate with additional electronics
  • Requires lower voltage

Applications and Industries

  • National Defense and Security
  • Molecular Spectroscopy
  • Imaging Array
  • Medical Imaging
  • Remote Sensing
  • Electronics

Intellectual Property

ID Number
Patent Number
Direct detector for terahertz radiation 10181.0 7,420,225 09/02/2008
Terahertz radiation mixer 7863.0 7,376,403 05/20/2008
Heterodyne photomixer spectrometer with receiver photomixer driven at different frequency than source photomixer 8,482,739 07/09/2013
Technology IDSD#10181Development StagePrototype - Sandia estimates this technology at approximately TRL 5. Key elements have been demonstrated in relevant environments. AvailabilityAvailable - Various licensing and partnering options are available. Please contact the Intellectual Property Department to discuss.Published10/04/2011Last Updated04/21/2017