Terahertz Firing Quantum Lasers May Soon Be Protecting Us From Bombs and Explosives

We're cutting detection time from minutes to microseconds...with a laser the size of a computer chip.

5. 25. 16 by Colin Aboy
Image by KTLA

The terahertz spectrum is the band in the electromagnetic radiation that falls between microwaves and infrared light. Experts assert that using terahertz for spectroscopy could lead to more efficient scanning due to the wide range of materials it can detect.

The only problem? Current operational systems are bulky, suitcase-sized units that take about 15 to 30 minutes to operate.

Fortunately, a team from MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics have developed a new device that uses a quantum cascade laser to shoot out terahertz radiation at target samples for analysis. Their study is published in the journal Optica.

Quantum cascade laser units. Credit: Hamamatsu

The device is the size of a computer chip and is capable of cutting down operation time to just 100 microseconds, without the need for cooling systems which give current tech their bulky sizes.


The terahertz region has frequencies evenly spaced, appearing like a comb, which makes it easy to analyze since materials absorb such radiation uniquely. Through tests conducted by the researchers, the device appears to have promising applications for security and medicine.

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