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Efficiency and Spectrum Evaluation of Terahertz Photoconductive
Antenna Array Based on GaAs Substrates
Y. Zeng1, T. Kreouzis2, X. Chen1, R. Donnan1
School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, Queen Mary, University of London, London, E1 4NS,
United Kingdom
School of Physics and Astronomy, Queen Mary, University of London, London, E1 4NS, United Kingdom
Abstract— Terahertz photoconductive antenna arrays with
interdigitated electrodes are laid down on GaAs substrates in
which different geometries are assessed for their ability to
enhance performance of a time-domain spectrometer (TDS)
he current surge in interest of coherent generation and
detection of terahertz (THz) electromagnetic radiation lies
in its opening up of new territory in
application to
communications and imaging, as well as a being a new probe
in biological and materials sciences[1]. One such method of
coherent generation and detection is via a photoconductive
antenna (PCA). PCAs have shown significant advantages when
deployed in methodologies for spectroscopy, particularly
because of their capacity for broadband emission and
detection[2]. However, the efficiency of this type of THz source
is extremely low. The most sever factor inhibiting the power
and efficiency of PCAs is the extremely low quantum
efficiency during the photoconductive process. At high optical
intensity, excitation, saturation and screening effects begin to
occur and further reduce the efficiency of the source device. [1]
PCA arrays are hereby proposed to overcome this limitation.
illustrate the approximate paths of the THz wave.
Individual emitters are first examined. The fluctuation of the
signal is due to multi-reflection of the THz wave in the EO
crystal. Small gap (25µm) PCAs produce higher spectral
radiance above 0.5 THz than large gap (500µm) PCAs as
shown in Figure 2. This is consistent with the conclusion of
Beck et al. [5] Interdigitated electrodes are now being explored
as photoconductive emitting arrays, and are fabricated using
photolithographic techniques on single crystal semi-insulating
GaAs substrates (Figure 3). The geometry of the pitch and
width of the antenna array are set into three different groups,
i.e. much smaller than a THz wavelength (i.e. with respect to
1.0 THz), comparable to and, larger than the THz wavelength,
respectively. It should be noted that the permittivity of the
substrate should be considered when comparing the geometry
to the THz wavelength, as the THz wave is generated inside
the semiconductor substrate.
In the following we begin by evaluating the efficiency and
spectrum of individual PCAs for reference purposes. PCA
arrays of different geometries are then fabricated and
experimentally tested. Performance is assessed against theory.
Fig. 2. (a) Time and (b) frequency domain signals of a 25 µm gap PCA (red)
and a 500 µm gap PCA. Despite the change in the amplitude due to the
change of intensity of laser excitation caused by the focusing lens, the small
gap PCA shows significant enhancement above 0.5 THz.
The power and radiance of these PCAs are evaluated using a
time-domain spectrometer (TDS) system employing an
electro-optic (EO) detection scheme[4] as illustrated in Figure
1. A parabolic mirror is used to guide the radiating THz wave.
This is in preference to a back-mounted silicon lens in order to
reduce loss and signal aberration.
Fig. 3. Schematic of interdigitated PCA arrays. The gap and the width vary
from much smaller than the emitted THz wavelength (referenced to 1.0 THz),
to larger than the emitted THz wavelength. The radiation spectrum shows a
strong dependence on the geometry of the interdigitated fingers.
Fig. 1. Schematic layout of the TDS system with an EO detecting scheme.
Solid lines illustrate the trace of laser pulse, while the blue dash lines
The differences in performance among the different
geometric parameters are studied by analysing the field
distribution in the semiconductor substrates over the radiation
frequency domain.
The distribution of the bias electric field in the substrate is
simulated by solving the Poisson equation. The emitting
process of a PCA relies on the interaction between the photogenerated carriers and the external bias field[6]. Therefore, a
good coupling between the bias field and the carriers is crucial
for enhancing the efficiency of the device. Figure 4 shows the
evolution of the electric field inside the substrate with an
increasing distance from the air-semiconductor interface for
PCAs with different gaps under the same bias field strength.
The left and right plots respectively show the evolution of the
electric field at different positions inside the gaps,. It is
obvious that, for all cases, the bias electric field decays with
the increasing distance from the surface. On the other hand, it
is interesting to note that small-gap PCAs and large-gap PCAs
show different character regarding the bias field distribution.
For small-gap PCAs (10µm gap as in Fig. 4), over 90% of the
electric field concentrates in a thin layer just below the surface.
The thickness of this layer is similar to the dimension of the
gap. In contrast, for large-gap PCAs, the decay of the electric
field into the substrate becomes slower. For an 850 µm
emitter, the simulated electric field at the bottom of the
substrate is only 6% smaller than that at the surface. Hence, in
the consideration of good coupling between the bias field and
the photo-generated carriers, the dimension of the gap should
be around the penetration depth of the laser into the
semiconductor. It is also noticed from comparing Fig. 4(a) and
(b) that, the bias electric field decays much faster with distance
from surface at the edge than at the middle of the gap. This
suggests that the electric field near the metal-semiconductor
contact is stronger than the field in the middle of the gap. This
is consistent with the conclusions of Shi et al[7].
Fig. 4. The relationship between the x-component of electric field (Ex) in the
Si-GaAs substrate with depth from the air-semiconductor interface under the
same bias electric field for PCAs with different dimensions of gap at (a) the
middle of the gap and, (b) the edge of the gap.
Due to the relatively large scale of the electrodes compared
to the wavelength of a 1 THz wave, there is generally no
resonance on the electrodes. The influence, therefore, of
antenna geometry on the frequency of the radiated wave and
the radiation pattern can be omitted. Besides, in a TDS system,
only the signal in a certain time-window will be captured, in a
PCA array, mutual coupling between the antenna elements can
also be ignored. This is very different from conventional
antennas and arrays. On the other hand, the thickness of the
GaAs substrate material is generally a few hundred
micrometres (350 ± 25 µm in our case), which is comparable
or fractionally larger than 1 – 4 THz wavelengths (300 – 75
m). For elements situated on an electrically thick substrate,
the field distribution in the substrate can significantly affect the
efficiency of the antenna depending on the operation
frequency. [8] Furthermore, for a multipoint emitting
configuration, the radiation efficiency is also strongly
dependent on the spacing of elements, as the distance between
the emitting elements is relatively small. This reflects the
differences of the spectrum for PCA arrays with different
A brief study has been undertaken of the radiating character
of photo-conductive antenna (PCAs) and arrays with different
geometries. A factor of 10 enhancement in efficiency at
XX(Fig. 2), and an adjustable spectrum from the device, have
been achieved. In further analysis, the contribution of the bias
field and distribution of the THz wave inside the substrate are
realized and studied. An understanding of the radiating
character of PCA arrays has been made in order to set initial
guidelines for future device-design.
[1] P. U. Jepsen, D. G. Cooke, and M. Koch, "Terahertz
spectroscopy and imaging - Modern techniques and
applications," Laser & Photonics Reviews, vol. 5, pp.
124-166, Jan 2011.
[2] J. Darrow, B. Hu, X.-C. Zhang, and D. Auston,
"Subpicosecond electromagnetic pulses from largeaperture photoconducting antennas," Optics Letters, vol.
15, pp. 323-325, 1990.
[3] G. Matthaus, S. Nolte, R. Hohmuth, M. Voitsch, W.
Richter, B. Pradarutti, S. Riehemann, G. Notni, and A.
Tunnermann, "Large-area microlens emitters for
powerful THz emission," Applied Physics B-Lasers and
Optics, vol. 96, pp. 233-235, Aug 2009.
[4] Q. Wu and X. C. Zhang, "Free‐space electro‐optic
sampling of terahertz beams," Applied Physics Letters,
vol. 67, pp. 3523-3525, 1995.
[5] M. Beck, H. Schafer, G. Klatt, J. Demsar, S. Winnerl, M.
Helm, and T. Dekorsy, "Impulsive terahertz radiation
with high electric fields from an amplifier-driven largearea photoconductive antenna," Optics Express, vol. 18,
pp. 9251-9257, Apr 26 2010.
[6] R. H. Chou, C. S. Yang, and C. L. Pan, "Effects of pump
pulse propagation and spatial distribution of bias fields
on terahertz generation from photoconductive antennas,"
Journal of Applied Physics, vol. 114, Jul 28 2013.
[7] W. Shi, L. Hou, and X. M. Wang, "High effective
terahertz radiation from semi-insulating-GaAs
photoconductive antennas with ohmic contact
electrodes," Journal of Applied Physics, vol. 110, Jul 15
[8] A. Shahvarpour, A. A. Melcon, and C. Caloz, "Radiation
Efficiency Issues in Planar Antennas on Electrically
Thick Substrates and Solutions," Ieee Transactions on
Antennas and Propagation, vol. 61, pp. 4013-4025, Aug