We analyze amplification of terahertz plasmons in a grating-gate semiconductor hetero-structure. The device consists of a resonant-tunneling-diode gated high-electron-mobility transistor (RTD-gated HEMT), i.e. a HEMT structure with a double-barrier gate stack enabling resonant tunneling from gate to channel. In these devices, the key element enabling substantial power gain is the coupling of terahertz waves into and out of plasmons in the RTD-gated HEMT channel, i.e. the gain medium, via the grating-gate itself, part of the active device, rather than by an external antenna structure as in previous works, enabling amplification with associated power gain >> 30 dB at room temperature.
In two-dimensional electron systems with mobility on the order of 1,000 – 10,000 cm2/Vs, the electron scattering time is about 1 ps. For the THz window of 0.3 – 3 THz, the THz photon energy is in the neighborhood of 1 meV, substantially smaller than the optical phonon energy of solids where these 2D electron systems resides. These properties make the 2D electron systems interesting as a platform to realize THz devices. In this paper, I will review 3 approaches investigated in the past few years in my group toward THz devices. The first approach is the conventional high electron mobility transistor based on GaN toward THz amplifiers. The second approach is to employ the tunable intraband absorption in 2D electron systems to realize THz modulators, where I will use graphene as a model material system. The third approach is to exploit plasma wave in these 2D electron systems that can be coupled with a negative differential conductance element for THz amplifiers/sources/detectors.