Researchers have developed a first-of-its-kind terahertz laser that is compact, operates at room temperature, and can produce 120 individual frequencies spanning the 0.25 – 1.3 THz, far more range than previous terahertz sources.
The laser is helpful in a range of applications, such as skin and breast cancer imaging, drug detection, airport security, and ultrahigh-capacity optical wireless links.
The terahertz frequency range sits in the middle of the electromagnetic spectrum between microwaves and infrared light. It has remained difficult for applications because most terahertz sources are either very bulky, inefficient, or rely on low-temperature devices to produce these elusive frequencies with limited tuning.
The new research more than triples the tuning range of the existing prototype. Among other advances, the new terahertz laser replaces nitrous oxide with methyl fluoride, a molecule that reacts strongly with optical fields. Due to its compactness, efficiency, wide tuning range, and room temperature operation, this laser has the potential to become a key technology to bridge the terahertz gap for applications in imaging, security, or communications.