Imaging chip exploits terahertz spectrum

1 min read

US engineers have developed a CMOS imaging chip for detecting the terahertz part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

It could pave the way for mobile phones that can see through walls, wood, plastics, paper and other objects, according to the team at the University of Texas at Dallas.

‘We’ve created approaches that open a previously untapped portion of the electromagnetic spectrum for consumer use and life-saving medical applications,’ said Dr Kenneth O, director of the Texas Analog Center of Excellence and a professor of electrical engineering at UT Dallas. ‘The terahertz range is full of unlimited potential that could benefit us all.’

The terahertz band of the electromagnetic spectrum, one of the wavelength ranges that falls between microwave and infrared, has not been accessible for most consumer devices.

With the team’s latest technology images can be created with signals operating in the terahertz range without having to use several lenses inside a device. This could reduce overall size and cost.

The second advance that makes the findings applicable for consumer devices is the technology used to create the microchip. Chips manufactured using CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) technology form the basis of many consumer electronic devices used in daily life such as personal computers, smart phones, high definition TV and game consoles.

Applications of such technology could range from finding studs in walls to authentication of important documents. Businesses could use it to detect counterfeit money while manufacturing companies could apply it to process control.  

Terahertz can also be used for imaging to detect cancer tumours, diagnosing disease through breath analysis, and monitoring air toxicity. 

Due to privacy concerns, Dr. O and his team are focused on uses in the distance range of less than four inches.