The new generation of higher resolution terahertz scanners
The absorption bands of almost all explosives are in terahertz radiation range, which makes it very effective in detecting them. Nowadays terahertz scanners have become increasingly important in counteracting terrorist threats – they are enabled to detect not allowed items for example carried by travellers at airports. However, commercially available terahertz scanners cannot achieve as high resolution as X-ray scanners, due to much longer terahertz wavelength. For this reason the images from terahertz scanners are blurry and not very detailed. Krzysztof Świtkowski, PhD, from the Faculty of Physics of the Warsaw University of Technology is working on improving the resolution of terahertz imaging.
Terahertz radiation refers to the electromagnetic radiation region between microwaves and far infrared. For a long time this range was not attractive for application prospects, as there were neither practical sources nor detectors of this radiation. Technological progress that have taken place in the last ten years, have made terahertz waves successfully used on an industrial scale, primarily in detecting dangerous objects. Importantly, terahertz radiation, unlike X-rays, is non-ionizing and completely safe for living organisms. Hence, terahertz scanners can be used for frequent and non-invasive scanning of people, e.g. at airport gates, subway entrances, in embassies or other diplomatic spots. Unfortunately, the drawback of terahertz imaging is large blurring and lack of details.
“The aim of my project is to generate terahertz radiation with unique properties – the so-called vortex beams. Then we will examine potential of these beams for application in scanners with increased resolution” – says Krzysztof Świtkowski, PhD, laureate of the HOMING 5/2018 program of the Foundation for Polish Science.
Vortex beams with regard to the optical range of electromagnetic waves, are already well known. Their discovery resulted in many spectacular applications, e.g. STED microscopy, for which the Nobel Prize was awarded in 2014. A crucial element in this microscopy is the usage of an additional vortex beam to selectively quench fluorescence in the samples. Thanks to the use of such a beam, the spatial resolution of the obtained images compared to the traditional fluorescence microscopy has increased. “The innovation of my project is based on the synergy of terahertz technique with the latest achievements in optics. I intend to try out several innovative vortex beams generation methods in relation to terahertz radiation, and then use them to build a laboratory terahertz scanner with increased resolution. The resulting laboratory scanner should be characterized by greater detail and sharpness of the obtained images. In the long term, such device can be used not only to detection of threats, but also in terahertz microscopy, for example to rapid cancer diagnosis” – emphasises Świtkowski.
Principal Investigator: Krzysztof Świtkowski, BEng, PhD, graduated from the Faculty of Physics of the Warsaw University of Technology and Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Rochester (USA), defended his doctorate in the field of applied physics at the Faculty of Physics of the Warsaw University of Technology and completed a three-year research internship at the Texas A&M University in Qatar.