Guinness World Record: Amplifier operates at a speed of one trillion cycles per second

Northrop Grumman-developed system is 150 billion times faster than previous record holder could lead to faster networks, better radar

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Credit: DARPA

DARPA said today that a solid-state amplifier developed under its Terahertz Electronics program was recognized by Guinness World Records as the fastest ever recorded -- one terahertz (1012 GHz), or one trillion cycles per second—150 billion cycles faster than the existing world record of 850 gigahertz set in 2012.

 Northrop Grumman developed the amplifier known as the Terahertz Monolithic Integrated Circuit (TMIC) and said the device exhibits power gains several orders of magnitude beyond the current state of the art.

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“Gain, which is measured logarithmically in decibels, similar to how earthquake intensity is measured on the Richter scale, describes the ability of an amplifier to increase the power of a signal from the input to the output. The Northrop Grumman TMIC showed a measured gain of nine decibels at 1.0 terahertz and 10 decibels at 1.03 terahertz. By contrast, current smartphone technology operates at one to two gigahertz and wireless networks at 5.7 gigahertz, “ DARPA stated.

 The agency went on to say that current electronics using solid-state technologies have largely been unable to access the sub-millimeter band of the electromagnetic spectrum due to insufficient transistor performance.

“To address the ‘terahertz gap,’ engineers have traditionally used frequency conversion—converting alternating current at one frequency to alternating current at another frequency—to multiply circuit operating frequencies up from millimeter-wave frequencies. This approach, however, restricts the output power of electrical devices and adversely affects signal-to-noise ratio. Frequency conversion also increases device size, weight and power supply requirements,” the agency stated.

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 “This breakthrough could lead to revolutionary technologies such as high-resolution security imaging systems, improved collision-avoidance radar, communications networks with many times the capacity of current systems and spectrometers that could detect potentially dangerous chemicals and explosives with much greater sensitivity,” said DARPA program manager Dev Palmer.

Northrop-Grumman recently demonstrated an all-silicon, microchip-sized system on a chip that runs at 94 GHz. DARPA said that this chip is the first time a silicon-only package has achieved such a high frequency, which falls in the millimeter-wave range.

The all-silicon system on a chip transmitter uses a digitally assisted power amplifier that adapts amplifier performance characteristics to changing signal requirements. This capability according to DARPA allows for simultaneous optimization of efficiency and linearity—a key goal of all transmitters and power amplifiers designed to quickly deliver large amounts of data.

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