Tunnel field-effect transistors for sensitive terahertz detection
The rectification of electromagnetic waves to direct currents is a crucial process for energy harvesting, beyond-5G wireless communications, ultra-fast science, and observational astronomy. As the radiation frequency is raised to the sub-terahertz (THz) domain, ac-to-dc conversion by conventional electronics becomes challenging and requires alternative rectification protocols. Here, we address this challenge by tunnel field-effect transistors made of bilayer graphene (BLG). Taking advantage of BLG’s electrically tunable band structure, we create a lateral tunnel junction and couple it to an antenna exposed to THz radiation. The incoming radiation is then down-converted by the tunnel junction nonlinearity, resulting in high responsivity (>4 kV/W) and low-noise (0.2 pW/Hz−−−√Hz) detection. We demonstrate how switching from intraband Ohmic to interband tunneling regime can raise detectors’ responsivity by few orders of magnitude, in agreement with the developed theory. Our work demonstrates a potential application of tunnel transistors for THz detection and reveals BLG as a promising platform therefor.