Enhancing Communication and Sensing at Terahertz Frequencies with Programmable Electromagnetic Surfaces

ECE Associate Professor Josep Jornet (PI), Assistant Professor Cristian Casella, Assistant Professor Ben Davaji, and Associate Research Scientist for the Institute for the Wireless Internet of Things Vitaly Petrov were awarded a $500K AFOSR grant titled “Programmable Electromagnetic Surfaces Based on Ferroelectric and Antiferroelectric Hafnium Zirconium Oxide Films and Graphene for Terahertz Communications and Sensing.”

Public Abstract

Programmable electromagnetic surfaces (PES), also known as reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (RIS) or intelligent reflecting surfaces (IRS), are the enabler of key transformative applications relevant to the US Air Force. On the one hand, PES can be utilized to enhance wireless communications by enabling the manipulation of the direction and shape of electromagnetic signals as they propagate. On the other hand, PES can be utilized to mislead radar sensing systems. The applications of PES become even more critical at terahertz (THz) band frequencies (between 100~GHz and 10~THz) but, unfortunately, as of today, the functionality of THz PES is very limited. A PES generally consists of an array of elements whose reflection coefficient can be adjusted at least in phase, and ideally also in amplitude. Common techniques utilized for phase and amplitude control at lower frequencies cannot be re-utilized at frequencies above 100 GHz The objective of this research is to design, fabricate, program, and demonstrate non-volatile and wirelessly controlled PES that leverage the hybrid integration of Hafnium Zirconium Oxide (HZO) and graphene and are able to support unique communication and sensing applications at true terahertz frequencies (i.e., 1 THz). The work has been divided into two thrusts. In Thrust~1, on-chip PES will be designed and manufactured, embodying for the first time nanometer-scale HZO ferroelectric and antiferroelectric varactors as well as graphene. In Thrust 2, innovative algorithms tailored to the fabricated PES will be developed to support critical terahertz communication and sensing functionalities, including beamforming, wavefront engineering, and radar spoofing. This project will contribute to the US Spectrum dominance beyond 5G, increasing the reliability and security of terahertz wireless communications and sensing systems.

Related Faculty: Josep M Jornet, Cristian Cassella, Benyamin Davaji, Vitaly Petrov

Related Departments:Electrical & Computer Engineering