Canon develops terahertz device with compact size, world-highest output and potential use cases in security, 6G transmission and more

Canon announced that the company has developed a terahertz device with a compact size and world’s highest output1. Leveraging the semiconductor device design and manufacturing technology cultivated over its long history, the company has produced a device that realizes both high output and high directivity2. In the years to come, terahertz technology is expected to be widely used in such fields as next-generation sensing and data transmission.

Terahertz waves are a type of electromagnetic wave that possess a wavelength between that of radio waves and light while possessing characteristics of both. Compared with widely used X-rays, they are ideal for scanning underneath the surface of objects without causing harm to the human body. Thanks to such characteristics this technology is expected to be utilized in locations that experience heavy pedestrian traffic, such as entrances to amusement parks and event spaces, making possible security countermeasures with high throughput that do not disrupt the flow of pedestrian traffic. What’s more, there is ongoing experimentation towards the use of terahertz waves in next-generation 6G signal transmission, and there is potential for use in high-speed, high-volume data transmission. The new device developed by Canon produces output that is stronger than terahertz waves and more easily directed, thus contributing to technological innovation and product development, including the aforementioned applications, in a wide range of fields, as well as assisting the development of industries and societies that utilize terahertz wave technology.

One of the most pressing issues for terahertz technology is that devices that generate terahertz waves require a high electrical output, and therefore large-sized components. Canon’s newly developed semiconductor device, however, employs “Resonant-Tunneling Diodes (RTD)”3, which is characterized by the emission of terahertz waves from an “active antenna,” i.e., an antenna that is integrated with a semiconductor device. Thus, there is no longer any need for frequency multipliers4 and other such components utilized in conventional devices, allowing for a device size that is approximately 1000x smaller5.

Thus far, creating compact devices that utilize RTDs results in lower output. However, Canon has successfully developed an active antenna array, which contains 36 active antennas on a single semiconductor chip, and is able to combine the output of all antennas, thereby making possible a world-highest output of approximately 10×6.

Another challenge facing terahertz wave technology is that terahertz waves emitted by antennas of conventional devices tend to disperse and thus cannot travel long distances. Canon’s proprietary design technology has enabled the synchronization of all antennas in an antenna array. As a result, the company has achieved high directivity, approximately 20×7 that of a conventional single-antenna device, without the need for lenses or other optical technology. This in turn makes possible long-range imaging and signal transmission using a more compact device.

1. Among 450 GHz output semiconductor devices. As of December 28, 2022. Based on Canon research.

2. Directivity refers to the way in which the strength of an emitted electromagnetic signal or light varies depending on the direction. High directivity means that energy can be concentrated in a single direction.

3. A diode that utilizes the phenomenon of tunneling through electron resonance walls originating from nanoscale structures of semiconductor devices. This compact electron device is capable of directly generating terahertz waves at room temperature.

4. A device that converts and outputs input signal frequency to integer multiples.

5. Comparison of device volume between Canon device and conventional devices such as those using antennas or frequency multipliers and conversion lenses.

6. Comparison between a conventional single-antenna semiconductor device (approx. 1 mW) and new Canon device (approx. 11.8 mW). Based on Canon research.

7. Comparison of antenna gain between a conventional single-antenna semiconductor device (non-synchronized, no lens, approx. 10dB) and new Canon device (synchronized, approx. 24dB). Based on Canon research. Antenna gain is a key performance parameter which indicates ability to accumulate and output signal strength depending on direction. A higher antenna gain means higher performance of the antenna. A difference of about 14dB in antenna gain corresponds to a difference of about 20 times in terms of strength.