Unlocking Mysteries of the Universe: Role of THz Technology
Dr. Imran Mehdi
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Abstract: Space exploration, like any complex problem, requires contributions from a multitude of different disciplines. I postulate that THz science and engineering assumes a rather unique and pivotal role for helping us understand our Universe. I will explore some fundamental science questions, such as the source of water on Earth, and how THz science provides a key to understanding this mystery. Moreover, critical measurements such as the determination of water vapor in clouds, temperature of cooling gases in interstellar medium, wind velocities in the troposphere, and plume detection on Europa all require microwave (THz to be more precise) instruments.  A key to these discoveries is the availability of compact, robust, and easy to use coherent sources in the THz range. Recent progress in achieiving mWs of power in the submillimeter-wave range will be discussed. Along with coherent sources recent progress in near quantum limited detectors have now made it possible to envision the next generation of space instruments much more capable and robust than before, opening a new window to our Universe.  In other words, it’s an exciting time to be a microwave engineer!

Imran Mehdi (BSEE 1985, MSEE 1986 and Ph.D 1990, University of Michigan) is a Senior Research Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology.  He joined JPL in 1990 and is currently a Group Supervisor leading research and development in submillimeter-wave applications in space. His responsibilities include developing THz components, technologies and subsystems for current and future NASA missions.  These devices and components were implemented on the ozone-monitoring Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) instrument which is still operational as well as the (Microwave Instrument on Rosetta Orbiter) MIRO instrument which represents the first submillimeter-wave receiver operational in deep-space. From 1999 he led the effort of developing broadband solid-state sources from 200 to 2500 GHz for the Heterodyne Instrument for Far Infrared (HIFI) on the Herschel Space Observatory, a cornerstone European Space Agency mission.  He is an IEEE Fellow and serves as the Editor in Chief for the IEEE Transactions on THz Science and Technology.  He is recipient of a number of NASA awards including the NASA Exceptional Technology Achievement Medal for “outstanding innovation and expertise in development and implementation of the submillimeter-wave membrane-based Schottky diodes for the HIFI Spectrometer on Herschel.” His current interests include millimeter and submillimeter-wave devices and technology, nanotechnology, high-frequency instrumentation, 3D Submm-wave systems, and development of compact, low-power heterodyne receivers for deep-space missions.