A breakthrough in exploiting electromagnetic waves has potentially
opened the way for more advanced medical diagnosis.
This should allow future terahertz waves (T-rays) systems to be
smaller, more portable, easier to operate, and much cheaper than
current devices, for medical diagnostics.
T-rays are already in use in airport security scanners, prototype
medical scanning devices and in spectroscopy systems for materials
They can also sense molecules such as those present in cancerous
tumours and living DNA, since every molecule has its unique
signature in the THz range, the journal Nature Photonics reports.
Or detect explosives or drugs, for gas pollution monitoring or
non-destructive testing of semiconductor integrated circuit chips,
according to Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR),
Singapore, and Imperial College London.
The researchers say their more efficient continuous wave T-rays,
the technology behind full body scanners, could be used to make
better medical scanning gadgets, similar to the 'tricorder'
scanner used in Star Trek.
Current T-ray imaging devices are very expensive and operate at
only a low output power, since creating the waves consumes large
amounts of energy and needs to take place at very low
Materials science researchers have made T-rays into a much
stronger directional beam than was previously thought possible, at
Research co-author Stefan Maier, a visiting scientist at A*STAR
and professor of physics at Imperial College, said: "T-rays
promise to revolutionise medical scanning to make it faster and
more convenient, potentially relieving patients from the
inconvenience of complicated diagnostic procedures and the stress
of waiting for accurate results."