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New T-ray Source Could Improve Airport Security, Cancer Detection
Date:11/27/2007

ARGONNE, Ill., Nov. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Going through airport security can be such a hassle. Shoes, laptops, toothpastes, watches and belts all get taken off, taken out, scanned, examined, handled and repacked. But "T-rays", a completely safe form of electromagnetic radiation, may reshape not only airport screening procedures but also medical imaging practices.

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, along with collaborators in Turkey and Japan, have created a compact device that could lead to portable, battery-operated sources of T-rays, or terahertz radiation. By doing so, the researchers, led by Ulrich Welp of Argonne's Materials Science Division, have successfully bridged the "terahertz gap" -- scientists' name for the range of frequencies between microwaves (on the lower side) and infrared (on the higher side) of the electromagnetic spectrum.

While scientists and engineers have produced microwave radiation using conventional electric circuits for more than 50 years, Welp said, terahertz radiation could not be generated that way because of the physical limitations of the semiconducting circuit components.

"Right around 1 terahertz, you have a range of frequencies where there have never been any good solid-state sources," he added. "You can make those frequencies if you are willing to put together a whole table full of expensive equipment, but now we've been able to make a simple, compact solid-state source."

Unlike far more energetic X-rays, T-rays do not have sufficient energy to "ionize" an atom by knocking loose one of its electrons. This ionization causes the cellular damage that can lead to radiation sickness or cancer. Since T-rays are non-ionizing radiation, like radio waves or visible light, people exposed to terahertz radiation will suffer no ill effects. Furthermore, although terahertz radiation does not penetrate through metals and water, it does penetrate through many common materia
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SOURCE Argonne National Laboratory
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