THz fingerprints of astronomical objects are of a great value as they offer insights into history of the Universe, formation and evolution of galaxies and their central supermassive black holes, and other fundamental questions raised by astrophysics. Detection and decoding of these ultra-weak signals currently rely on THz bolometers placed outside Earth atmosphere (e.g. Herschel Space Observatory or James Clerk Maxwell Telescope).
ROTOR aims at developing THz sensors for space applications that show beyond the state-of-the-art key performance indicators, being ultralight and having remarkable radiation tolerance. We propose to employ submicron thick stacks of graphene (Gr) and monoatomic layers of transition metals dichalcogenides (TMD) and/or Tellurene, Sellenium, black phosphorous (TeSeBP). The proposed approach will enable detectors having a 100-500 times lower weight and a 10-50 times smaller footprint in comparison with existing ones at the same sensitivity, and, because of a high tunability, covering the frequency range of interest.
Specific ROTOR objectives are (i) proof-of-concept and experimental demonstration of a tunable, submicron thick and radiation-tolerant Gr/TMD/TeSeBP THz sensor, and (ii) approaching Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 4 – Component Laboratory Validated – in breakthrough THz sensing technology and converting it into sound industrial applications.
The project relies on the solid theoretical background of the team that will enable a precise understanding and handling of the influence of the defects, doping, strain and external fields on the sensor characteristics. Advanced and accurate nano-electromagnetics modelling will be employed to predict the response of Gr/TMD/TeSeBP stacks in the THz spectral range. Analysis of the Gr/TMD/TeSeBP modification in harsh radiation environment of Earth’s radiation belts, magnetospheric plasma and cosmic rays will be performed by solving kinetic transport equations in the framework of the Lindhard, Scharff and Schiott (LSS) theory and Monte Carlo simulations.
ROTOR will feed into the development of feasible and easy to use techniques for fabrication of van der Waals heterostructures composed of graphene and TMD/TeSeBP monolayers that will lead to prototyping a tunable THz sensor of bolometer type.
Along with a strong contribution to the fundamental astrophysics, ROTOR’s technology scientific and industrial applications will provide benefits for the European society and citizens via novel THz see-through imaging techniques and systems tackling challenges of utmost importance, e.g., non-destructive testing, tomography, dental and medical imaging/diagnosis, health monitoring, quality control, food inspection, environmental control, chemical and biological identification.