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Access to the Braun Submicron center for research on semiconductor materials, devices and structures

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Quantum mechanics for novel microwave detectors

EU-funded researchers made significant advances in understanding the quantum mechanics behind the design and development of a new generation of microwave detectors. Developments have important implications for the electronics industry.

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The electromagnetic (EM) spectrum consists of EM radiation at all possible frequencies, theoretically infinite and continuous. Microwave radiation has frequencies in the range of about 3 to 300 GigaHertz (300 GHz = 300 x 10^9 cycles per second), where very high frequency corresponds to very short wavelength. For example, a frequency of 300 GHz corresponds to a wavelength of 1 mm. microwave detectors have found widespread application in mobile communications, medicine and environmental sensors to name a few. EU-funded researchers working on the ‘Access to the Braun submicron centre for research on semiconductor materials, devices and structures’ (WISSMC) project set out to develop planar microwave detectors using selectively doped mesoscopic semiconductor structures (materials of intermediate size between the macroscopic and microscopic). These are capable of operating in the sub-millimetre range (higher than 300 GHz frequency). whereas macroscopic structures typically obey the laws of classical mechanics, mesoscopic and microscopic require the application of quantum mechanics to be fully understood. In order to achieve project objectives, the researchers studied electron transport through quantum metallic dots, small regions of semiconductor material on the order of 100 nanometres (0.1 mm). WISSMC developed new methods enabling calculations of the physical properties of metallic dots in different regimes inaccessible with conventional methods. Furthermore, they provided insight into the nature of magnetic instability and shed light on the physics of mesoscopic grains, developing a theory of coupled nearly ferromagnetic grains. continued research and application of results should enable the design of planar microwave detectors operating at wavelengths of less than 1 mm, or frequencies greater than 300 GHz. Such devices could have important implications for the electronics industry, whose continued success is based on increasing miniaturisation stemming from enhanced understanding of quantum mechanics.

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