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Terahertz wave camera captures 3D images of microscopic world

Published in The Quantum World, Tools.

Lead researcher Dr Luana Olivieri said the team’s latest study – primarily funded by the ERC Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme – could have “major implications for a range of fields with relevance in cancer screenings, security, and materials research”.

The early-stage research, carried out with Professor Marco Peccianti, Dr Luke Peters, Dr Juan S. Totero and a team of experts from the Emergent Photonics Research Centre (EPicX), demonstrated that terahertz waves can be used to locate and recognise embedded objects and features, such as cracks and bubbles, in microscopic three-dimensional space. The study has been published in ACS Photonics.

Terahertz wave frequencies range between microwave and infrared light, making them suited for penetrating opaque objects without causing harm. However, one of the main problems in the field of terahertz imaging is the limited ability to view microscopic objects.


Dr Olivieri and the EPicX team said it has overcome this limitation by developing ‘time-resolved nonlinear ghost imaging’, which combines advanced detection methods and involves manipulating light and measuring how it travels through an object over time.

Their method allows smaller objects to be seen more clearly. Until now, it was only proven to work on 2D objects.

In their latest study, the researchers proved the technique can capture 3D images of microscopic items by probing 4mm by 4mm by 600µm cubes with terahertz radiation.

The researchers’ imaging technique allowed them to separate and distinguish information from different depths and create detailed, 3D images of the cubes with very high accuracy, which allowed them to observe the chemical and physical nature of items inside them in a way that was not possible before.