Dangerous Cancer causing Terahertz T-ray devices to be promoted
Star Trek’s ‘tricorder’ medical scanners could become reality after breakthrough in T-ray technology
Developement could lead to medical tests becoming quicker and more convenient for patients
Last updated at 6:52 PM on 22nd January 2012
Way forward: Star Trek-style hand held medical scanners – similar to this tricorder from the show – are a step closer thanks to a new breakthrough in technology
Star Trek-style hand held medical scanners are a step closer thanks to a new breakthrough in technology.
Scientists have developed a new way to create electromagnetic Terahertz (THz) waves or T-rays – the technology behind full-body security scanners.
The waves are also capable of detecting biological phenomena such as increased blood flow around tumorous growths, but current techniques are pricey and low power.
The researchers say their method of producing stronger and more continuous wave T-rays could be used to make better medical scanning gadgets, leading to innovations similar to the ‘tricorder’ scanner used in Star Trek.
The development could lead to medical tests becoming quicker and more convenient for patients.
Writing in journal Nature Photonics, the team from Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore, and Imperial College London told how they have focused the rays into a much stronger directional beam than was thought possible.
It means that future T-ray devices could become smaller, easier to use and cheaper.
T-rays are waves in the far infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum that have a wavelength hundreds of times longer than those that make up visible light.
They are already used for security and in protoype medical devices.
But researchers have created a strong beam of T-rays by shining light of differing wavelengths on a pair of electrodes, using a tiny gap between them as an antenna to amplify the signal.
The output is 100 times more powerful than conventional methods.
Lead author Dr Jing Hua Teng, from A*STAR’s IMRE, said: ‘The secret behind the innovation lies in the new nano-antenna that we had developed and integrated into the semiconductor chip.’
Research co-author Stefan Maier, of Imperial College London, said: ‘T-rays promise to revolutionise medical scanning to make it faster and more convenient, potentially relieving patients from the inconvenience of complicated diagnostic procedures and the stress of waiting for accurate results.
‘Thanks to modern nanotechnology and nanofabrication, we have made a real breakthrough in the generation of T-rays that takes us a step closer to these new scanning devices.
‘With the introduction of a gap of only 0.1 micrometers into the electrodes, we have been able to make amplified waves at the key wavelength of 1000 micrometers that can be used in such real world applications.’