The 230th national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Washington will focus on T-rays that offer the potential to see biological agents through a sealed envelope and detect tumors without harmful radiation.
T-rays are opening the door to a wide variety of applications and are based on the terahertz (THz) region of the electromagnetic spectrum -- defined by frequencies from 0.1 to 10 THz, just between infrared light and microwave radiation.
The waves have already invited research in a multitude of diverse sectors such as the semiconductor materials, medicine, manufacturing, space, and defense industries. T-ray applications that could enable the label-free characterization of genetic material; detect a C-4 explosive hidden in the mail, and help researchers understand the complex dynamics involved in protein folding.
Objects at room temperature emit thermal energy in the THz range. This radiation is extremely useful for sensing and imaging objects, with major advantages over other techniques. T-ray systems offer more than just images: they can provide valuable spectroscopic information about the composition of a material, especially in chemical and biological species -- something that X-rays may not be able to do. T-rays are also safer than X-rays for biological applications, with photon energies that are 1 million times weaker than X-ray photons.
Until recently, researchers have had great difficulty harnessing the potential of the THz region, largely because of a lack of suitable radiation sources. Biomedical imaging and genetic diagnostics are two of the most obvious potential applications of this technology. Equally promising is the ability to investigate material characteristics, probe distant galaxies, and study quantum interactions.