Scientists have developed a new way to create electromagnetic Terahertz (THz) waves or T-rays - the technology behind full-body security scanners. The researchers behind the study, published recently in the journal Nature Photonics, say their new stronger and more efficient continuous wave T-rays could be used to make better medical scanning gadgets and may one day lead to innovations similar to the 'tricorder' scanner used in Star Trek.
In the study, researchers from the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), a research institute of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore, and Imperial College London in the UK have made T-rays into a much stronger directional beam than was previously thought possible, and have done so at room-temperature conditions. This is a breakthrough that should allow future T-ray systems to be smaller, more portable, easier to operate, and much cheaper than current devices.
The scientists say that the T-ray scanner and detector could provide part of the functionality of a Star Trek-like medical 'tricorder' - a portable sensing, computing and data communications device - since the waves are capable of detecting biological phenomena such as increased blood flow around tumorous growths. Future scanners could also perform fast wireless data communication to transfer a high volume of information on the measurements it makes.
T-rays are waves in the far infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum that have a wavelength hundreds of times longer than those that make up visible light. Such waves are already in use in airport security scanners, prototype medical scanning devices and in spectroscopy systems for materials analysis. T-rays can sense molecules such as those present in cancerous tumours and living DNA, since every molecule has its unique signature in the THz range. They can also be used to detect explosives or drugs, for gas pollution monitoring or non-
|Contact: Simon Levey|
Imperial College London