T-Ray Technology Moves from the Lab Bench to Marketplace

April 12, 2007
Terahertz waves are the last segment of the electromagnetic spectrum to be exploited by scientists. And, while T-rays show promise for sensing and imaging, the size and weight of the bulky equipment they need have been an obstacle.

Julie Kalista
Online Editor

This is not the case any more, thanks to Brian Schulkin, winner of the first $30,000 Lemelson-Rensselaer Student Prize for his ultra-light, handheld terahertz spectrometer.

"Up until now, T-ray devices were incredibly heavy, not portable, and required large and expensive high-powered lasers," says Schulkin. Schulkin's portable Mini-Z device weighs less than five pounds and is about the size of a laptop computer. It provides real-time data and does not require special training to operate it.

T-rays are based in the terahertz region of the electromagnetic spectrum, defined by frequencies from 0.1 to 10 terahertz - just between infrared light and microwave radiation. They can penetrate many dry, non-metallic materials with better resolution than microwave radiation, without the health risks.

Furthermore, T-rays can provide spectroscopic information about material composition. To prove it, Schulkin and his team conducted tests with foam samples from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center Lockheed Martin Space Systems. The team embedded defects in specially prepared foam samples, then used T-rays to spot them. In one test, a total of eight man-made defects of various sizes were scattered throughout the sample and successfully detected.

The patent-pending technology could be used in evaluating the integrity of carbon fiber composites used in airplanes, imaging tumors without harmful radiation, detecting explosives at airport security checkpoints, spotting landmines, and seeing biological agents through sealed envelopes.

More Information:
Center for Terahertz Research at Rensselaer

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