Researchers at the Sandia National Laboratories have initiated the first steps toward decreasing the size and improving the functionality of devices in the terahertz (THz) frequency spectrum. The researchers combined both laser and detector to produce a compact receiver. The receiver eliminates the need for precision alignment of optical equipment required to integrate the detector and the laser.
The unexplored frequency range between the infrared and the microwave parts of the electromagnetic spectrum is used in the new system. Certain frequencies in the THz frequency spectrum can be used in skin or dental cancer imaging to differentiate various types of tissues. Other frequencies can be utilized to identify biological or chemical weapons and to penetrate clothing materials.
The demonstration of the THz quantum cascade lasers (QCLs) indicates that these devices may offer major advantages in technologies used for radioastronomy, security, radar, medical diagnostics and chemical spectroscopy.
The research has been published in the June 27, 2010 issue of Nature Photonics. The research symbolizes the first monolithic integration of a THz QCL and diode laser to produce a photonic integrated circuit called the microelectronic terahertz receiver.