DARPA’s world-record 1 terahertz chip could boost self-driving cars and robots

A new chip created by DARPA and Northrop Grumman was accepted into the Guinness Book of World Records today for clocking in at 1 terahertz per second, an ability that could open up new applications in communications and imaging.

The chip works at 1 trillion cycles per second, compared to the previous world record of 850 billion cycles set in 2012. That puts it at a frequency of 1 terahertz, which is between what your microwave emits and the infrared radiation used in night vision goggles.

Why are researchers interested in packing those waves ever tighter? First, it could open up new broadband options and ways to communicate over short distances between mobile devices. It also allows for more detailed imaging and sensing. Radar, for example, works by sending out waves and then measuring what bounces back. Tighter waves allow for a more detailed picture of what they are bouncing back off.

That could be a big boost for specialized security cameras, self-driving cars and robots that need to pick up on obstacles or unexpected movement. DARPA officials named the military as a big target for commercializing the breakthrough.

“We live in very dangerous time with very dangerous threats,” said Dale Burton, vice president and CTO of research and technology at Northrop Grumman. “We need to make another leap to the next level of technologies.”