Partnership Resource Projects

Titanium Nitride Kinetic Inductance Detectors for Terahertz Imaging – QMC Instruments and the Universities of Glasgow and Cardiff

Terahertz (THz) imaging is an important sensing capability for civil, security and defence applications.  THz radiation has unique properties that allow objects to be detected and identified despite a wide range of intervening barrier materials including clothing, paper, cardboard and plastics..  The superconducting Lumped Element Kinetic Inductance Detector (LEKID) is an emerging quantum technology designed originally for use in astronomy. LEKIDs offer the ultra-high sensitivity and detection speed required to perform THz imaging of room temperature objects passively. They therefore do not require THz sources to illuminate the target. This simplifies and reduces the cost of facilities and avoids potential future issues related to the safety of the THz illumination of people.  To date, the LEKIDs developed at Cardiff University operate at sub Kelvin temperatures (220mK), requiring complex and expensive cooling platforms using Helium-3 gas. Furthermore these devices are limited in optical bandwidth achieving typically 30% bandwidth at THz frequencies.

Through this partnership resource project, QMCI supported by Cardiff and Glasgow Universities aim to evaluate a new type of detector that will operate at higher temperatures and with increased optical bandwidth. This simplifies and removes cost from the instruments and makes the detector arrays suitable for a broader range of imaging applications. The detectors will rely on high quality films of titanium nitride to be grown at the University of Glasgow and evaluated at Cardiff University in partnership with QMC.  This project will lay the foundation for a complete supply chain for this technology within the UK (from device fabrication to full commercial THz imaging systems).  This project dovetails closely with the overall mission of QuantIC to develop next generation imaging systems enabled by quantum technology.

The results from this feasibility study will be used to inform the further development of a working prototype.


About QMC Instruments

QMC Instruments Ltd. started life as a technology transfer organisation dealing mainly with technology developed in the 1960’s and 1970’s in the Physics Department of Queen Mary College in London (now called QMUL.)  Since 2001 QMC has been located at Cardiff University alongside its colleagues in the School of Physics and Astronomy. The Astronomical Instrumentation Group in Cardiff is a world leader in the design and provision of receivers for continuum astronomy in the FIR region. Their work has been central to the success of astronomy in this region of the spectrum over the last 20 years. They have most notably been heavily involved in instruments for ground-based facilities such as the James Clerk Maxwell telescope in Hawaii, balloon-borne experiments such as Boomerang, and satellite projects such as IRAS, ISO, Herschel and Spitzer. For more information visit