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Project T-KOS to develop terahertz technologies for communications and sensor markets

09 Jun 2021

Partners in year-long project include Research Fab Microelectronics Germany and several Fraunhofer institutes.

In the recently-launched joint project T-KOS led by the Berlin-based Research Fab Microelectronics Germany (FMD), terahertz technology is to be developed “synergistically and for the first time” for industry in the fields of communication and sensor technology.

Project partner Fraunhofer HHI (Heinrich Hertz Institute) says that innovative system solutions in both market sectors can make a significant contribution to the successful implementation of future issues such as digitalization, Industry 4.0 or resource efficiency and thus strengthen Germany as a business location in the long term. The HHI is participating with its Photonic Components department.

The TKOS launch statement adds, “In our digitalized, high-tech world of life and work, the availability of communications and data connections is a basic requirement. The increasing mobility of users, the flexible use of broadband multimedia content, and future technologies such as the Internet of Things or autonomous driving are increasing both the volume of data in mobile networks and the demands on the communications networks themselves.

“One promising option for increasing data capacity and usable bandwidth is the additional use of terahertz technologies. This forms the basis for innovation not only in the area of radio systems, but also in the area of non-destructive testing.”

Terahertz advantages

Terahertz waves can penetrate most electrically non-conductive materials, such as ceramics or plastics, in a similar way to ultrasound and X-rays, but they operate without a coupling medium and require neither complex mechanical guidance nor radiation protection measures because, unlike X-rays, they are harmless to the human organism.

Although terahertz radiation is predestined for a wide range of applications, for example in security technology, quality assurance or materials testing, industrial introduction has so far failed due to the lack of availability of inexpensive, fast and high-resolution systems with optimized, AI-based image recognition algorithms. This is where the T-KOS project, initiated by the FMD and funded with €10 million by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), comes in.

In the T-KOS joint project, which commenced last month, a total of nine cooperation partners of FMD are working together with Fraunhofer ITWM (Industrial Mathematics) to develop terahertz technology for wireless radio transmission, non-destructive testing technology, spectroscopy, and non-contact inline measurement technology.

The technological competencies for communication and sensor technology distributed in the FMD are being brought together and expanded by know-how in the area of signal processing in order to be able to offer industrial customers innovative system solutions. During the one-year project period, various demonstrators are set to be developed to address the future fields of high-frequency electronics, terahertz photonics and wireless, high-bit-rate communication.

Dr. Dirk Nüßler, project leader and deputy director of Fraunhofer FHR (High Frequency Physics & Radar), commented, “The overall project goals are to establish a German value chain to terahertz wireless links, such as for high-bit-rate communication in industrial production, inline monitoring of production processes with AI-based, real-time imaging processing for resource-efficient production, and first-of-its-kind industrial-grade terahertz communication and sensor technology by combining scalable electronic and photonic concepts." ”

To achieve these project goals, the project is organized along three parallel development strands that are interconnected at key points. "For the development strands terahertz photonics, terahertz line scan camera and terahertz communication, various demonstrators can be realized within the comparatively short project duration of 12 months, which go far beyond the current state of the art. " said Prof. Björn Globisch, group leader at Fraunhofer HHI and professor for "Terahertz Sensor Technology" at the Technical University Berlin.

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