Washington, April 9 : Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Physical Measurement Techniques IPM in Freiburg say that terahertz waves may soon offer as a universal tool for search and security operations, medical diagnosis, and several other purposes.
The researchers envision that devices based on terahertz waves, which until now have barely found their way out of the laboratory due to cost factors, can help detect explosives or drugs without having to open a suitcase or search through items of clothing.
Such devices may even enable doctors to identify skin cancer without having to perform a biopsy, they say.
The researchers say that terahertz waves can be created with the help of a femtosecond laser that emits extremely short flashes of infrared light.
In one femtosecond, a ray of light moves forward by about the width of a hair. The pulsed light is directed at a semiconductor where it excites electrons, which then emit terahertz waves.
The Fraunhofer experts have already tested this approach on a glass fibre of a type similar to that used for transmitting data.
"Our fibre-based system is so robust that we can simply plug it into a standard 240-volt socket," says IPM expert Joachim Jonuscheit.
With the beam path inside a glass fibre, equipments using the technology may no longer require a shockproof base to avoid falsified measurements that may occur due to vibrations.
Since vibrations are no longer a problem, the device can even be deployed on the factory floor with forklift trucks driving around and heavy machinery vibrating.