The discovery of galaxies beyond z approximately equal to 1 which emit the bulk of their luminosity at long wavelengths has demonstrated the need for high sensitivity, broadband spectroscopy in the far-IR/submm/mm bands. Because many of these sources are not detectable in the optical, long wavelength spectroscopy is key to measuring their redshifts and ISM conditions. The continuum source list will increase in the next decade with new ground-based instruments (SCUBA2, Bolocam, MAMBO) and the surveys of HSO and SIRTF. Yet the planned spectroscopic capabilities lag behind, primarily due to the difficulty in scaling existing IR spectrograph designs to longer wavelengths. To overcome these limitations, we are developing WaFIRS, a novel concept for long-wavelength spectroscopy which utilizes a parallel-plate waveguide and a curved diffraction grating. WaFIRS provides the large (approximately 60%) instantaneous bandwidth and high throughput of a conventional grating system, but offers a dramatic reduction in volume and mass. WaFIRS requires no space overheads for extra optical elements beyond the diffraction grating itself, and is two-dimensional because the propagation is confined between two parallel plates. Thus several modules could be stacked to multiplex either spatially or in different frequency bands. The size and mass savings provide opportunities for spectroscopy from space-borne observatories which would be impractical with conventional spectrographs. With background-limited detectors and a cooled 3.5 telescope, the line sensitivity would be better than that of ALMA, with instantaneous broad-band coverage. We have built and tested a WaFIRS prototype for 1-1.6 mm, and are currently constructing Z-Spec, a 100 mK model to be used as a ground-based lambda/DELTAlambda approximately equal to 350 submillimeter galaxy redshift machine.
New Concepts for Far-Infrared and Submillimeter Space Astronomy; 285-294; NASA/CP-2003-212233