A team of researchers at the University of Manchester has shown that graphene could be used to control the frequency of terahertz lasers, opening up the possibility of a new area of technology using terahertz lasers in improved scanning systems, X-ray replacements, and dramatically increased internet bandwidth.
The researchers explain that graphene can assist in creating a platform to electronically control devices and flexibly engineer device output. This new alternative method of scanning materials could dramatically improve the efficiency and accuracy of analyzing materials in the pharmaceutical, security and agricultural industries. The scientists explain that current terahertz devices do not allow for tuneable properties, and a new device would have to be made each time requirements changed. Graphene, however, can allow for terahertz devices to be switched on and off, as well as altering their state.
Terahertz technology exists on the electromagnetic spectrum between microwave and infrared frequencies. The benefit of using terahertz lasers instead of X-rays is that they can accurately scan materials without causing damage. Highly-sensitive scanners for sensing defects in manufactured drugs, or detecting concealed weapons at airports, could become more accurate and much safer for frequent use using the new technology. Terahertz lasers are similar to X-rays in that they are invisible to the naked eye but are far safer in comparison by being non-destructive and non-invasive.