Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sandia develops next generation of screening devices

24.01.2007
System detects hazardous, toxic material in concealed packaging

It might not be science fiction much longer.

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories are developing the next generation of screening devices that will identify hazardous and toxic materials even if concealed by clothing and packaging materials.

Working in the underutilized terahertz (THz) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that lies between microwaves and infrared, a team of Labs scientists is harnessing Sandia's strengths in a variety of technical areas with the goal of building a highly integrated miniaturized terahertz transmitter-receiver (transceiver) that could make a number of applications possible.

The project, the Terahertz Microelectronics Transceiver Grand Challenge, is in its second of three years of funding through Sandia's internal Laboratory Directed Research and Development program.

Sandia is a National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) laboratory.

"The technology being developed in the Grand Challenge can be used to scan for items such as concealed weapons or materials, explosives, and weapons of mass destruction," says Mike Wanke, principal investigator. "In addition, we believe it will find applications in advanced communication systems and high-resolution radars. However, the infrastructure needed to move the terahertz technology from the laboratory to the field is unavailable right now. We want to develop that infrastructure and invent the necessary technologies."

Wanke says over the past three years, "the terahertz situation has begun to change dramatically, primarily due to the revolutionary development of terahertz quantum cascade lasers."

These tiny lasers are semiconductor sources of terahertz radiation capable of output powers in excess of 100 mW. Previously, such powers could only be obtained by molecular gas lasers occupying cubic meters and weighing more than 100 kg, or free electron lasers weighing tons and occupying entire buildings.

Quantum cascade laser-based systems can be less than the size of a baseball and powered from a nine-volt battery. Sandia has been a leader in developing this new technology and in collaboration with MIT is responsible for several world performance records for the lasers. Also, the Labs and its partners are the only US institutions that have demonstrated the ability to grow the unique semiconductor crystals such that they can be turned into operating terahertz quantum cascade lasers. The crystals are grown by Sandia research scientist John Reno, an expert in molecular beam epitaxy, a method of laying down layers of materials with atomic thicknesses onto substrates.

Sandia researchers spent the first year of the Grand Challenge using Sandia's unique strengths in integrated microelectronics and device physics to develop components that are now being combined to create an integrated THz microelectronic transceiver, a core enabling element.

The team is currently developing the receiver, doing systems tests and exploring packaging requirements. At the end of three years, the researchers expect to have an actual working prototype capable of detecting the materials and chemicals by reading distinctive molecular spectral "signatures."

"Most materials and chemicals have their own unique terahertz spectral signatures," Wanke says. "A terahertz transceiver system would be able to measure, for example, the signature of a gas and determine what it is."

"Atmospheric scientists and radio astronomers have spent years developing terahertz spectral signature databases to identify chemicals in nebula and planetary atmospheres," says Greg Hebner, program manager. "Even though the current devices are washing machine-sized, they are located in a few observatories, and one is even flying on a satellite. To address specific national security problems, we are working on reducing the size, weight, and power requirement as well as expanding the existing spectral databases."

In addition to monitoring for concealed hazardous materials, Mike believes a terahertz system can be used to monitor the air for toxic materials. Using air sampling technology developed at Sandia and other locations, hazardous vapors can be preconcentrated. Shining light from the quantum cascade laser through the concentrated sample provides a direct identification of the vapor. This technology can be used in conjunction with existing mass spectrometer-based systems to reduce false identifications.

"We are very optimistic about working in the terahertz electromagnetic spectrum," Wanke says. "This is an unexplored area and a lot of science can come out of it. We are just beginning to scratch the surface of what THz can do to improve national security."

Chris Burroughs | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.sandia.gov
http://www.sandia.gov/news/resources/releases/2007/terahertz.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Witnessing turbulent motion in the atmosphere of a distant star
23.08.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie

nachricht Heating quantum matter: A novel view on topology
22.08.2017 | Université libre de Bruxelles

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

What the world's tiniest 'monster truck' reveals

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Treating arthritis with algae

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Witnessing turbulent motion in the atmosphere of a distant star

23.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>