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We evaluate a technique to improve the performance of antenna-coupled diode rectifiers working in the IR. Efficient operation of conventional, lumped-element rectifiers is limited to the low terahertz. By using femtosecond-fast MIM diodes in a traveling-wave (TW) configuration, we obtain a distributed rectifier with improved bandwidth. This design gives higher detection efficiency due to a good match between the antenna impedance and the geometry-controlled impedance of the TW structure. We have developed a method for calculating the responsivity of the antenna-coupled TW detector. Three TW devices, made from different materials, are simulated to obtain their impedance and responsivity at 1.5, 3, 5, and 10 μm wavelengths. The characteristic impedance of a 100-nm-wide TW is in the range of 50 Ω and has a small variation with frequency. A peak responsivity of 0.086 A/W is obtained for the Nb-Nb2 O5 -Nb TW diode at 3-μm wavelength. This corresponds to a quantum efficiency of 3.6% and is a significant improvement over the antenna-coupled lumped-element diode rectifiers. For IR imaging, this results in a normalized detectivity of 4 × 106 Jones at 3 μm. We have identified several ways for improving the detectivity of the TW detector. Possible methods include decreasing the diode resistance, reducing the noise, and increasing the effective antenna area.