National Physical Laboratory

One step closer to X-ray specs

Photons emitted by bodies at naturally occurring temperatures, such as the human body, can be detected in the terahertz region. The terahertz range is the virtually unused gap in the frequency spectrum between radar and light.

NPL in conjunction with Royal Holloway College London and University of Tokyo have brought together two key physics techniques to demonstrate a new highly sensitive device to detect photons in the terahertz range. Quantum dot technology detects the terahertz region whilst single electron transition provides us with the read-out.

X-ray image

Being able to detect natural radiation and generate a 'radiation signature' of a person without an invasive procedure can have many applications including health and security screening as different tissues, such as skin cancer or chemicals will give off radiation of different frequencies. Pharmaceutical companies also utilise the unique properties of terahertz radiation to identify and develop new drugs and medicines.

This detector is not the first of its kind, but it is anticipated to be much more sensitive, easier to use and does not require complex environments, such as magnetic fields, in which to operate. This makes it much more suitable to be incorporated into a practical product in the future.

Find out more about NPL's research in Defence & Security and Electromagnetics

Last Updated: 8 Oct 2012
Created: 25 Apr 2012

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