TERANET: An EPSRC Network for UK researchers in terahertz science and technology

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Electronic and Electrical Engineering

Abstract

The UK has internationally leading strengths in terahertz (THz) frequency science and technology, with over 20 research groups across the country working on complementary aspects of THz technology development (sources, detectors, systems) and applications research. The UK also hosts world-leading THz instrumentation companies including, for example, TeraView, e2v, and QMC Instruments. This position in the UK has been built up through a long-standing and significant strategic investment over the last 10-15 years predominantly from the EPSRC, but also from other sources including the STFC, EU, ESA, UK government agencies, and industry.
There is a real and evident synergy in the development of complementary experimental methods and instrumentation across these research groups, as well as potential to engage with a wide range of technology end-users to help co-define the research. However, there is a growing danger of fragmentation, particularly at a time when the field has matured to a stage where individual devices and techniques have become developed, yet their integration and targeted configuration for individual applications is still to be realized. This situation is recognized in the THz community, and indeed as part of the EPSRC shaping capability exercise, the research council stated that "research in terahertz devices that seeks to develop integrated technologies, drawing on the body of device physics to push application capabilities will be considered to be a high priority".
Currently, there are few mechanisms for formal interaction across the UK, which would deliver this necessary focus, in a similar way to that achieved, for example, in the USA (by the THz Science and Technology Network) and in Japan (by the THz Technology Forum). Personnel from several UK groups regularly attend the annual international IRMMW/THz conference, held in the US/Europe/Far East by three-yearly rotation. This has the advantage of providing an international perspective on the broad microwave-THz field, but it has a very general focus, and is an inefficient means to forge new UK-based collaborations. Though other international conference series exist with relevance to the THz community (eg. ITQW, EP2DS, ISSTT), their thematic content is highly specialized, and as such they represent a limited subset of the UK THz technology-base and capability.
There is hence a compelling need for an EPSRC network to provide a focus to THz science and technology research in the UK, and to act as a central UK forum for the exchange of ideas, experimental techniques, theoretical models, scientific insights technological developments, and commercial drivers. It is the purpose of this proposal to assemble a UK network in the area of THz science and technology, focusing in particular on the development of application-specific terahertz systems, to provide cohesion and a focus for development of new interdisciplinary collaborations. This network, TERANET, will provide a focal point for research groups to interact, to engage with application end-users, to meet with the major UK industrial contacts, and to expedite the development of interdisciplinary proposals and research programmes. The network will also help develop a roadmap for THz frequency research and development in the UK. The goal is to capitalize on the considerable UK critical mass in the area, and the willingness of the community to collaborate.

Planned Impact

The principle goal of the Network is to bring together the THz community to forge new interdisciplinary collaborations and to engender new interactions between the community and its potential end-users. To achieve this aim effectively, each of the meetings (four network, plus two network showcases), will have a core Theme, allowing us to target key contacts from the wider community aligned with each topic. Each Theme will be decided at least six months in advance by the Steering committee, with at least half having a predominantly industrial focus, chosen from topics such as "THz Technology for Pharmaceuticals", "THz in medicine", or "Security applications of THz Technology", for example. Network days will begin with a keynote talk given by key industry or end users. We will invite up to ten end users working in the particular thematic area to each Network event, to ensure a broad audience suitable for the development of a technology roadmap in that particular area.
Along with the new interdisciplinary academic interactions which the THz network will bring about, it will also act as a focal point for industry to interact with the UK THz community over the next three years, so laying a foundation for the THz community's ongoing impact over the coming decade and beyond. These interactions are embedded in our plans, and to ensure our goals are achieved we have included three industrial representatives on TERANET's Steering Group from the outset (from Teraview, QMC Instruments, and the National Physical Laboratory), who will ensure that the industrially focused research is at the heart of that encouraged and engendered by the network. We will also co-opt end users into the Steering Group, including members of government agencies, and invite new industrial members onto the Steering committee to refresh its membership during its course.

In order to help the community explore potential new activities and collaborations arising from the network, a number of small grants (£1-4k each) will also be made available. After each Network Meeting/Showcase, delegates will be able to apply to the Steering Group for such a grant, which will predominantly enable collaborative proof-of-concept studies. It is envisaged that these grants will cover travel and subsistence of staff, and consumables, for short visits to new collaborator's laboratory, or to provide a summer studentship working on a new collaborative piece of research. The goal is that successful proof-of-concept studies will be worked up into a full formal collaborative research proposals.
 
Description This award funded a series of seven meetings bringing together and strengthening the UK terahertz community, alongside invited representatives from the wider international terahertz community. The meetings ranged in size from 30 to 110 researchers and industrialists, and were held all around the UK (in conjunction with the Universities of Leeds, Oxford, Southampton, Cambridge, London, Imperial and UCL). The meetings each focussed on a research theme within terahertz science and technology (including non-destructive testing, biological and medical applications, chemical spectroscopy, roadmapping, and terahertz communications). A seed corn fund of ~£40k was distributed during the lifetime of the grant, funding a series of small projects leading to further funding. Outputs by participants directly facilitated by the Network included significant grants, including a Programme Grant, Responsive Mode grants, and several RCUK Fellowships. Building upon this foundation, the Network co-ordinated the 2017 Roadmap for Terahertz Science and Technology, written by 18 groups internationally, which has received great interest (with 37 thousand downloads and in excess of 170 citations as of early 2019).
Exploitation Route The work of the Network now continues beyond its funding period, with its first meeting beyond the grant (held at the University of Warwick, badged as UK THz Day) attracting over 100 people, and is anticipated to become an annual UK event.
Sectors Chemicals,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics,Healthcare,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Security and Diplomacy

URL http://www.terhertz.network
 
Description The seven meetings held by the Network were each attended by Industrial representatives, helping to align UK industry with the UK terahertz community.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Chemicals,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Retail