The far-infrared (FIR) or terahertz (THz) part of the electromagnetic spectrum (wavelength ca. 30 µm to 1 mm) is relatively unexplored with regard to scientific applications and available technology. By observations in this spectral range missions such as SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy a joint project of NASA and DLR, and the ESA cornerstone Herschel will contribute significantly to our understanding of the origin and evolution of stars, planets and other solar system bodies such as comets or asteroids. The department of Far-Infrared Technology is devoted to the development and operation of enabling technology and instrumentation for the exploration of the FIR/THz spectral range.
The success of any mission and the quality of the scientific data depend crucially on state-of-the–art instrumentation. Technological advances enable new discoveries. Typically, new technology led to important discoveries within the first few years after implementation. The exceptional discovery potential in the FIR/THz region arises because the detectors and instruments are still short of fundamental performance limits. The research and development activities of this department are focussed on FIR/THz spectrometers and their associated technology and physics, in particular the development of detectors and lasers for the FIR/THz frequency range. This includes nanostructured superconducting hot electron bolometers and photon counters as well as solid state lasers based on n-doped silicon or quantum cascade lasers.
Currently two heterodyne receivers are in the development stage: GREAT, the German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies, and TELIS, the Terahertz and Submillimeter Limb Sounder. GREAT will be built for astronomy and planetary research with SOFIA, while TELIS is a balloon borne limb sounder for atmospheric research.