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Input Devices Medicine United Kingdom Hardware Science

Nano-Scale Terahertz Antenna May Make Tricorders Real 185

Posted by samzenpus
from the welcome-to-the-future dept.
MrSeb writes "Researchers from Imperial College London and A*STAR in Singapore have shown off a terahertz antenna that's just 100 nanometers across — about 30,000 times smaller than existing terahertz antennae — and two orders of magnitude stronger than other T-ray beam-forming techniques. T-rays are a lot like EHF (extremely high frequency), which is used by millimeter wave scanners in airports, medical imaging, and emerging wireless networking standards like WiGig — but stronger, faster, and more detailed. Where EHF radiation can see through your clothes, T-rays can penetrate a few millimeters of skin. Furthermore, because atoms and molecules have a unique terahertz-range signature, T-ray scanners can detect toxic substances, bombs, drugs — or even cancerous tumors under your skin. Most importantly, though, due to the nano scale of these antennae, it's possible to create huge antennae arrays on a single silicon chip, meaning hand-held T-ray scanners are now a possibility. In the not so distant future, every household might have a Star Trek-like tricorder capable of detecting cancer or other diseases."
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Nano-Scale Terahertz Antenna May Make Tricorders Real

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  • Re:Silly Scale (Score:5, Informative)

    by somersault (912633) on Monday January 23, 2012 @10:01AM (#38791449) Homepage Journal

    And what does "two orders of magnitude stronger" mean?

    Around 100 time stronger.

  • by Mitchell314 (1576581) on Monday January 23, 2012 @10:24AM (#38791735)
    Given that Tetrahertz is mostly infrared (or visible towards the gigahertz magnitude), you'd be hard pressed to give anything cancer.
  • Re: radiation (Score:3, Informative)

    by IAmR007 (2539972) on Monday January 23, 2012 @10:34AM (#38791861)
    Terahertz radiation is not nearly ionizing radiation; it's between infrared and microwave. It can't hurt you unless you use high enough intensities to cause burning.

    The awesome thing about terahertz is that can also be used for spectroscopic analysis as well as imaging. The terahertz energies correspond to crystal phonon energies, which means substances and their crystal structure can be determined by a terahertz scan. This means that for security applications, you don't even need to form an image unless the signature of an explosive substance is seen, which reduces privacy concerns of such technology considerably.

    The major downside, at least for devices operating at around 1THz, which I've worked on at the University of Leeds, is that water is opaque. Atmospheric water is highly annoying (samples in labs are run in dry nitrogen environments) and a damp cloth would completely block such scans. Many of the commercial devices run at 300GHz, however, so I'm not sure if water is a problem for them.
  • by hirundo (221676) on Monday January 23, 2012 @10:38AM (#38791907)

    Seems like this story dropped the lede. The most significant use of this technology will be to detect blood glucose levels without lancing through the skin, making it a less dreaded process for millions of diabetics to monitor their conditions.

  • by root_42 (103434) on Monday January 23, 2012 @11:45AM (#38792891) Homepage

    Given that Tetrahertz is mostly infrared (or visible towards the gigahertz magnitude), you'd be hard pressed to give anything cancer.

    First, it's Terahertz, and second: no, not visible when it goes down to Gigahertz. Gigahertz waves are Microwaves, and hence far from being visible. Terahertz waves are in order of 1mm or smaller, approaching the infrared. Safety limits for radiation exposure of Terahertz waves are still being researched upon, though.

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