Scientists at Northwestern University have tapped the terahertz frequency range and opened the door to harm-free radiation imaging technology and early-detection cancer screening devices. The technology hinges upon what has been described as an “invisibility cloak” – a prism-shaped structure no more than ten millimeters long. Designed at the atomic level, the purpose of the metamaterial “cloak” is to help scientists identify organic compounds that resonate on a frequency between infrared and microwaves.

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Terahertz frequencies are on a level too high for use in electronics, but new research is quickly uncovering the effectiveness of applying optical techniques in this range as a substitute for mammographies and airport security scans. British company TeraView has already developed an imaging device currently undergoing human trials that uses terahertz technology to detect the presence of cancerous cells. T-rays lack the ionizing radiation of X-rays and penetrate cells on a nanoscale level, which can aid in early-detection of pancreatic, breast, lung, and other cancers.

As far as we can tell, there are no plans to consider extending the “invisibility cloak” to reach across the entire spectrum, but applying microstereolithography techniques and data projectors to come up with an alternative to ionizing radiationis impressive enough. The Scientists at Northwestern will continue their work in terahertz optics by creating the cloak’s opposite, a terehertz lens.

Via Phys Org

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