T-rays may soon replace X-rays

Alexey Belyanin, associate professor in physics and astronomy at Texas A&M University, is focusing on terahertz, otherwise known as THz or T-rays, which he specifies is the most under-developed and under-used part of the electromagnetic spectrum.
“Using THz cameras, we could detect weapons or drugs concealed on a human body, or look inside envelopes and boxes," he says. "There are many other applications for THz radiation, including material studies, chemistry, biology, medicine.”

“THz radiation can penetrate through opaque dry materials. It is harmless and can be used to scan humans,” Belyanin says. “Unfortunately, until recently the progress in THz technology has been hampered by a lack of suitable sources and detectors.”
Belyanin, who is collaborating with colleagues at Rice University and the National High Magnetic Field Lab, says T-rays lie between microwave radiation and infrared (heat) radiation. Besides being more penetrating than X-rays, they do not leave behind the harmful effects of X-rays.
Belyanin and collaborators use the less powerful T-rays instead, which only excite the waves in the electron gas because T-rays do not have enough energy to knock out electrons, says a Texas release.

“This is as if instead of throwing a stone into a tank of water, which would create a lot of splashes, we gently vibrate one wall of the tank, sending a sound wave through the body of water and ripples over its surface,” he explains.
“This provides extremely valuable and unique information about the properties of the material, just like seismic waves tell you what is in the Earth's interior,” Belyanin said.
These finding are slated for publication in Nature Physics.

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