When envisioning a special ability to peer through materials, most probably think of X-rays, which are high energy photons with the potential to damage molecules. Researchers around the world however are looking to T-rays, or terahertz radiation, to look beneath the surface. Those at the University of Adelaide have recently developed a metamaterial device with the potential to improve scanners that would use terahertz radiation, making them more accurate and efficient.
Terahertz radiation occupies the region of the electromagnetic spectrum between microwaves and infrared, making its photons less energetic than even visible light. What makes that frequency of light special is that it strongly reacts with water molecules and those reactions can be observed. To improve terahertz scanners, the Adelaide researchers have crafted a metamaterial device with microstructures to trap the photons in a space much smaller than their wavelength. This confinement then leads to the improved efficiency of accuracy of other terahertz devices, such as security scanners to detect explosives, and medical scanners for finding cancer.
The metamaterial device is actually made of a conducting silicon, which differs from the semiconducting silicon used in electronics. Fabricating the device however utilizes the same techniques used in the semiconductor industry.
Source: University of Adelaide