Congratulations to Himanshu Aggrawal, PhD student in electrical and computer engineering (ECE), for receiving the prestigious IEEE MTT-S Graduate Fellowship for 2016! Aggrawal, a member of ECE assistant professor Aydin Babakhani’s Rice Integrated Systems and Circuits(RISC) laboratory, was recognized for his work in next generation Terahertz (THz) millimeter wave technology.
“THz waves, which occupy the band from 0.1 mm to 1 mm, are unique in the spectrum because of their potential applications in secure communications, automotive radar, and medical imaging. Despite the interest in using terahertz waves, we currently lack the underlying hardware platform to build upon,” Aggrawal explained.
“Himanshu is pushing the limits of high-speed samplers and receivers in the mm-wave regime with signal frequencies exceeding 60GHz. He is working on a novel nonlinear sampling idea that can reduce the sampling window to few picoseconds ” Babakhani noted.
An airport’s full body scanner operates at a low RF frequency. Aggrawal and the RISC lab are working to take the technology and make it work at a higher frequency to make it more efficient. He describes a scenario in the future where there are no security checkpoints at airports, no X-Ray imaging, and no lines.
“Imagine a scenario where you don’t have to go through checkpoints. You would just walk past multiple sensors in the wall that will scan you and detect dangerous substances without causing delay and inconvenience,” Aggrawal added.
“The ultimate goal is to build fast and accurate THz hyper-spectral imaging systems that can produce a complete absorption spectrum at every pixel of an image. This is very important for security applications such as detection of explosives and hidden objects. There are also many interesting medical applications such as 3D radar imaging of cancerous tumors” Babakhani noted.
“Unlike x-rays, THz radiation is non-ionizing. Ionizing changes your DNA structure, which is what makes x-ray exposure dangerous. Since our methods are not ionizing, they are not harmful to the human body,” he said.
THz spectroscopy systems can identify species of gas molecules and many polycrystalline materials with high specificity and detect trace quantities of those molecules with high sensitivity. THz imaging systems can penetrate materials such as plastic and clothing, and can image with spatial resolution comparable to that of human vision. Unlike X-rays, THz radiation is non-ionizing, and therefore medically benign. Such technology can have huge impact in medical imaging.
Aggrawal will be recognized with other 2016 MTT-S Graduate Fellowship winners at the International Microwave Society (IMS) Conference, May 22-27 in California. This is the second consecutive MTT-S Graduate Fellowship award for the RISC lab. Last year ECE PhD student Xuebei Yang won a 2015 MTT-S Fellowship in the Medical Applications Category.
“I am fortunate to be able pursue my Ph.D. at Rice for many reasons, the primary one being that Rice is a burgeoning leader in mm-wave research,” Aggrawal said. “I strive to learn from and collaborate with Dr. Babakhani to expand the frontier of mm-wave research,” he said.