A direct detector for terahertz radiation comprises a grating-gated field-effect transistor with one or more quantum wells that provide a two-dimensional electron gas in the channel region. The grating gate can be a split-grating gate having at least one finger that can be individually biased. Biasing an individual finger of the split-grating gate to near pinch-off greatly increases the detector's resonant response magnitude over prior QW FET detectors while maintaining frequency selectivity. The split-grating-gated QW FET shows a tunable resonant plasmon response to FIR radiation that makes possible an electrically sweepable spectrometer-on-a-chip with no moving mechanical optical parts. Further, the narrow spectral response and signal-to-noise are adequate for use of the split-grating-gated QW FET in a passive, multispectral terahertz imaging system. The detector can be operated in a photoconductive or a photovoltaic mode. Other embodiments include uniform front and back gates to independently vary the carrier densities in the channel region, a thinned substrate to increase bolometric responsivity, and a resistive shunt to connect the fingers of the grating gate in parallel and provide a uniform gate-channel voltage along the length of the channel to increase the responsivity and improve the spectral resolution.
STATEMENT OF GOVERNMENT INTEREST
This invention was made with Government support under contract no. DE-AC04-94AL85000 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to Sandia Corporation. The Government has certain rights in the invention.