Closing the terahertz gap: Tiny laser is an important step toward new sensors

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In a major step toward developing portable scanners that can rapidly measure molecules in pharmaceuticals or classify tissue in patients’ skin, researchers have created an imaging system that uses lasers small and efficient enough to fit on a microchip.

The system emits and detects electromagnetic radiation at terahertz frequencies — higher than radio waves but lower than the long-wave infrared light used for thermal imaging. Imaging using terahertz radiation has long been a goal for engineers, but the difficulty of creating practical systems that work in this frequency range has stymied most applications and resulted in what engineers call the “terahertz gap.”

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