Terahertz radiation is extremely useful, but traditionally difficult to produce and expensive. But scientists at the Technical University of Vienna have come up with a new source of terahertz radiation, which they claim break records for efficiency and spectral range, producing a series of wavelengths in the terahertz band. Like X-rays, terahertz radiation or T-rays can easily pass through the material. But unlike X-rays, terahertz radiation is safe. It is located between radio waves and infrared light in the electromagnetic spectrum, does not ionize, and its moderate photon energy does not harm living tissue or DNA.
The team focused on the infrared area of the series. By efiring infrared lasers through crystals made up of selenium and zinc carbide, known as “nonlinear media”, the radiation frequency is doubled. This higher-frequency wave is then added to a conventional infrared laser to produce a new wave with a very special asymmetric electric field, which, according to the TU Wien press release, is strong enough to strip electrons from the air molecules to produce a glowing plasma. Magnetic fields excite electrons in the air, producing terahertz-based broadband radiation in short, sharp pulses.
Although only 2.3% of the energy is converted to useful terahertz radiation, the researchers say this is several orders of magnitude higher than other sources. The energy level is close to 200?J. Preliminary experiments on zinc niride crystals have shown that terahertz radiation is ideal for answering important questions in the field of materials science in a new way. Medically, terahertz radiation has been successful in the early detection of various types of cancer, including breast, colon and skin cancer. It is also used in dental imaging. Over the years, we’ve seen more experimental uses for terahertz radiation, including the creation of portable particle accelerators and the prevention of car rusting.