Terahertz Space Optics - Prof. J. Anthony Murphy

Part of the Terahertz Optics and Technology Group

The goal of this program is to continue to exploit our highly regarded expertise in the theoretical foundations of long wavelength optics, while exploring new terahertz quasi-optical technologies in which we have niche advantage both experimentally and by computational modelling. Terahertz technologies developed out of the success of extending microwave techniques to much higher frequencies to facilitate new generations of specialised space telescopes and atmospheric monitoring satellites for ozone and other chemical species.

With the rapid development of novel sensitive detectors and sources over the last decade, terahertz technology is mushrooming in importance, and new applications in medical physics and near object analysis are being identified. There are also possibilities offered for wider bandwidth communications, far-infrared spectroscopy and secure communication systems. For example, at terahertz frequencies ground level propagation limitations because of severe attenuation levels of 1000dB/km in the atmosphere (due to water vapour) can be turned to advantage in secure inter-satellite and local network communication.

Specifically, we envisage developing new terahertz quasi-optical devices and strategies for the frequency range between 0.3 THz to 10 THz. We envisage pursuing this work under two different schemes:

  • Continuation of a rolling TRP (Technical Research Programme) research contract with the European Space Agency,
  • Development of a separately funded applied terahertz quasi-optical technology programme in collaboration with the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge.

Our expertise in the area of quasi-optical analysis is evidenced by the large number of highly cited papers in refereed journals many of them written in collaboration with colleagues in Cambridge. The ESA contract was won against stiff competition and demonstrates that the consortium working on the contract is viewed as the leading European group in this area.

We intend to enhance our close co-operation with the THz instrumentation group at Cambridge through a formal regular collaborative managed programme. Dr. Stafford Withington, Reader in Terahertz Electronics at the Cavendish Laboratory was successful in attracting a large amount of JIF (Joint Infrastructure Fund) funding for terahertz work in device development. Our expertise in optical components will complement this work. Furthermore, we have recently become involved with David White, who is a full-time lecturer in the Information Technology Department at the Tallaght Institute of Technology and who is also pursuing research in the THz optics area.

In particular given the application of terahertz technology in communications, secure networks and other technologies underpinning Information and Communication Technologies we will be actively applying for SFI funding and recommending Dr. Withington for the ETS Walton Award, which would promote the connection between Maynooth and Cambridge. In particular we intend to apply in the short term for an SFI Principal Investigator Awards in collaboration with IT Tallaght.

In this section we have outlined our research plans over the next five years and beyond to the period after the launch of Planck and the HSO. The programme offers Maynooth close involvement with world class research institutions, such as Cambridge, Stanford and Cardiff, which will be invaluable in the training of research students and post-doctoral fellows, as well as promoting the Department of Experimental Physics and Maynooth University. A vigorous research programme has other spin-off benefits for the department helping to attract high quality undergraduates and giving special relevance to the denominated degree programme in Physics with Astrophysics offered at Maynooth University.

Post-graduate research

Students with further queries regarding research or applications for M.Sc. or Ph.D. on this topic should contact Prof. Anthony Murphy.