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Type: Journal article
Title: Limitation in thin-film sensing with transmission-mode terahertz time-domain spectroscopy
Author: Withayachumnankul, W.
O'Hara, J.
Cao, W.
Al-Naib, I.
Zhang, W.
Citation: Optics Express, 2014; 22(1):972-986
Publisher: Optical Society of America
Issue Date: 2014
ISSN: 1094-4087
Statement of
Withawat Withayachumnankul, John F. O'Hara, Wei Cao, Ibraheem Al-Naib, and Weili Zhang
Abstract: Thin-film sensing with a film thickness much less than a wavelength is an important challenge in conventional transmission-mode terahertz time-domain spectroscopy (THz-TDS). Since the interaction length between terahertz waves and a sample film is short, a small change in the transmitted signal compared with the reference is considerably obscured by system uncertainties. In this article, several possible thin-film measurement procedures are carefully investigated. It is suggested that an alternating sample and reference measurement approach is most robust for thin-film sensing. In addition, a closed-form criterion is developed to determine the critical thickness, i.e., the minimal thickness of a film unambiguously detectable by transmission-mode THz-TDS. The analysis considers influences from the Fresnel transmission at interfaces and the Fabry-Pérot reflections, in addition to the propagation across the film. The experimental results show that typical THz-TDS systems can detect polymer films with a thickness down to a few microns, two orders of magnitude less than the wavelength. For reasonably accurate characterization, it is recommended that the film thickness be at least ten times above this limit. The analysis is readily extended to biomolecular and semiconductor films. The criterion can be used to estimate the system-dependent performance in thin-film sensing applications, and can help to ascertain whether an alternative terahertz sensing modality is necessary.
Rights: © 2014 Optical Society of America
DOI: 10.1364/OE.22.000972
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Electrical and Electronic Engineering publications

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