DARPA, NSF and Navy: Design and Development of Infrared Rectennas for Long Wave Infrared Imaging and Energy Harvesting

Major goals of this program are to investigate, ultimately design and fabricate rectenna based systems to perform detection, communications, imaging, harvesting and control of high frequency electromagnetic radiation. We concentrate largely on the part of the spectrum that is not typically accessible with standard optical techniques or radio frequency (RF) electronics. In other words, we penetrate the ‘in-between’ Terahertz region with the goal of making it an accessible part of the spectrum. The rectenna is a novel combination of a micro-antenna and a tunneling metal-insulator-metal \(MIM) diode. This combination allows for conversion of electromagnetic radiation in the terahertz frequency range (AC) directly into direct current (DC).

Terahertz rectenna based detection and communication

We develop a detector capable of working in the tens of terahertz frequency range. This type of detector bridges the gap between traditional RF detectors (<100GHz) and optical photodetectors (>1000THz). Such a detector can be used for transmitting data at very high speeds since the communication bandwidth will be several terahertz. Further, using nano-imprint technology, the infrared rectenna based detectors can be made very cost effective – even more than traditional optical detectors that require very low defect density wafers for manufacturing.

Terahertz rectenna based imaging

We use the rectenna technology to develop an imager in the terahertz (THz) range approximately between 3 and 30 THz (long to mid-range infrared). Infrared (IR) range THz imagers based on the rectenna principle can be used in night vision goggles and infrared cameras. Using low noise ROICs along with rectenna based IR detectors, we develop IR imagers that operate at speeds that are much higher than IR imagers that are currently available.

Energy harvesting and remote energy transfer

We also apply the rectenna technology to developing the capability of transferring and storing energy remotely. We build a prototype where electromagnetic energy in the THz range can be directed to a remote rectenna system. The rectenna system then converts the EM radiation into DC electrical energy.

Comparison of the power conversion efficiency of a 300W SiC DC-DC converter and a 300W Silicon DC-DC converter.
Thermal map of a 1200V 20A 4H-SiC DMOSFET in a TO-247 package mounted on an aluminum heat sink while being used in a 300W DC-DC converter.
SiC Power Electronics Virtual Design Platform