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Strategies and concepts for the design of THz emitters based on the quantum cascade scheme are analyzed and modeled in terms of a fully three-dimensional Monte Carlo approach; this allows for a proper inclusion of both carrier–carrier and carrier–phonon scattering mechanisms. Starting from the simulation of previously published far-infrared emitters, where no population inversion is achieved, two designs are proposed. The first one follows the well-established chirped-superlattice scheme whereas the second one employs a double-quantum well superlattice to allow energy relaxation through optical phonon emission. For both cases a significant population inversion is predicted at temperatures up to 80 K.© 2001 American Institute of Physics.