Research projects

We carry out a wide range of research projects, often in collaboration with partners at other universities and in industry. Below are a selection of our current research projects.

EPSRC TRAVEL: Terahertz Technology for Future Road Vehicles, 2014 – 2018, £1.2M

This programme aims to lay the scientific foundations for a new generation of sensor systems that will  be mounted in vehicles to enhance the safety and efficiency.

The sensors, small enough to be mounted unobtrusively on vehicles, will allow high resolution images to be produced in real time, that can be read and interpreted by intelligent vehicle systems to determine appropriate actions in hazardous circumstances and to dynamically control the vehicle to reduce fuel consumption. Sharing the images, or the information obtained from them, with the infrastructure and with other vehicles, will also make it possible to enhance safety and efficiency collectively within whole cohorts of vehicles.

Sensors based on this technology will impact on future integrated automotive transport systems, supporting  an intelligent transport philosophy with efficient use of renewable energy sources, low carbon emissions and enhanced safety for all road users.

The new sensors exploit the technology of circuits and devices in the 0.3 THz to 1 THz frequency range. Although this range, falling in between the upper end of the radio spectrum and the lower end of the infra-red, is currently not widely used, the device and circuit technology will mature in the near future.

There are several potential advantages in the use of this frequency band, as opposed to the lower frequency microwave and mm-wave bands or the infra-red and optical bands.  The antennas required in the low THz band are smaller than those in the microwave and mm-wave bands, in proportion to the wavelength. The image resolution achievable is improved. There are two reasons for this: Firstly, narrower beams can be produced while using reasonably small antennas,  when the wavelength is so short (less than 1 mm). Secondly, the high bandwidths available when using such high frequencies make it possible to distinguish between more closely spaced features in the reflected signal. At the same time, waves in this band are not susceptible to complete obscuration by road dirt or precipitation, as infra-red and optical systems would be. 

The overall aims of the project are:

  • To characterise the propagation environment for THz signals near a road surface as a function of weather, surface and traffic conditions.
  • To determine the resulting system requirements in terms of the antennas and beamformers, transmitter and receiver parameters and power budgets.
  • To research and develop antennas and beamformers for THz based automotive systems.                                                            

EPSRC Capital Equipment Grant:  10 MHz to 1.1 THz Vector Network Analyser, 2017 – 2022, £1.4M

This specialised equipment characterises RF to THz components such as amplifiers, mixers, antennas and duplexers, which will be the building blocks for THz communications systems, remote sensing systems, radars, imaging systems and medical diagnostic systems. The THz frequency range presents an opportunity for new levels of system performance (in terms of data rates, resolution and miniaturisation) resulting from wide absolute bandwidths and sub-mm wavelengths.

The equipment enhances our leadership in automotive radar and in the development of THz devices for future communications technologies. Birmingham is the only academic institution in the country with scattering parameter measurement equipment from 10 MHz to 1.1 THz in a single flexibly reconfigurable installation capable of free space measurements. The THz measurement facility is fully supported through a manager and a part-time administrator and is a national facility available to UK academia and industry alike.