NASA SBIR 2007 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 07-2 S1.03-8994
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Passive Microwave Technologies
PROPOSAL TITLE: Schottky Heterodyne Receivers with Full Waveguide Bandwidth

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Virginia Diodes, Inc.
979 Second Street SE
Charlottesville, VA 22902 - 6172
(434) 297-3257

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Jeffrey L. Hesler
979 Second Street SE, Suite 309
Charlottesville, VA 22902 - 6172
(434) 297-3257

Expected Technology Readiness Level (TRL) upon completion of contract: 4

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
This proposal is responsive to NASA SBIR Subtopic S1.03: Passive Microwave Technology, specifically the fourth bullet item; "Low noise (<2000 K DSB), compactly designed (< 8 cm3), heterodyne mixers requiring low local oscillator drive power (<2 mW) with RF input frequency between 100 GHz to 1 THz." The proposed research is significant not only for the development of Schottky mixers that meet these requirements, but also for the creation of a receiver system, including the LO chain, that achieves the goals of high sensitivity, compact size, low total power requirement and operation across complete waveguide bands. The proposed receivers will meet all of the requirements for high resolution spectroscopic studies of planetary atmosphere's (including the Earth's) from spacecraft, as well as airborne and balloon platforms. The final contract deliverable will be a breadboard receiver module suitable for use on the proposed Vesper mission to probe the atmosphere of Venus. Perhaps more importantly, their exceptionally broadband performance, compactness and reliability will make them ideal for the broader range of scientific and commercial applications, which includes the extension of sophisticated test and measurement equipment to 1 THz and the development of low cost imaging systems for security applications and industrial process monitoring.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The technology developed through this research will enable the development of more power efficient and frequency agile heterodyne receivers to be used in NASA's submillimeter-wave missions that will not utilize cryogenically cooled systems. These include long term missions to planets that cannot afford the expense or are of too long duration for cryogenic systems and studies of planetary atmospheres that do not require the absolute lowest sensitivity but rather benefit from the frequency agility, robustness and stability of Schottky receivers. Primary examples of NASA missions are those to study planetary atmospheres, such as VESPER, MACO and MARVEL, and Earth observing satellites such as SIRICE and possibly Cameo. In addition, there are a host of balloon and aircraft projects that routinely use room temperature heterodyne receivers to study atmospheric chemistry that will benefit from the highly sensitive and more compact, power efficient and frequency agile receivers that will be developed.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Vector network analyzers (VNAs) and spectrum analyzers (SAs) are critical tools for any microwave laboratory. If terahertz technology is to reach its full potential, the functionality of VNAs and SAs must be extended to frequencies from 300 GHz through 3 THz with the same level of performance and ease of use that is achieved at lower frequencies. Today, several companies produce commercial extension kits for VNAs and SAs. However, most of these systems reach only to W-Band and/or are difficult to sweep across broad frequency bands. The few commercial systems that extend beyond W-Band tend to have reduced performance, specifically in terms of transmitter power and dynamic range. In fact the performance of these commercial systems is limited by the quality of the terahertz components, specifically the high frequency mixers and multipliers. Through this proposal VDI is developing the technology needed to achieve full waveguide band frequency mixers and their associated LO chains for frequencies up to at least 2 THz, with the performance necessary to achieve the same dynamic range that is today achieved at W-Band.

NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.


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