Cornell imagines terahertz waves on handheld devices -

Ultrafast wireless communication speeds are being developed using terahertz frequency waves, with researchers coming closer to technology which could fit into a handheld device.

Terahertz radiation, with occupies the space between the microwave and infrared light spectrum, have some interesting properties that researchers are trying to harness.

With the ability to penetrate many materials, terahertz scanning is being developed for a variety of applications - from identifying insulin levels or cancer too small too see with the naked eye to detecting chemicals in explosives and drugs.   

According to some reports terahertz lasers are also being developed by the USA to detect massive amounts of information on a molecular level about a person from over 100 feet.

Another interesting application is the possibility of creating an ultrafast Bluetooth-style wireless communication method that could transfer masses of information using the high frequencies of terahertz waves.

While it all may sound impressive, scientists have been struggling to create viable systems that work at room temperature, and without a vacuum.  Wonder material graphene has been touted as one possible way to successfully generate useable terahertz waves.

The waves are typically generated by lasers, but scientists at Cornell University have been working on developing them using the more familiar, and easily manufactured, CMOS chip.

While checking for traces of drugs from a hundred paces might not be possible, the lower powered devices would be useful for certain applications.  Law enforcement hand scanners would be one potential application, according to the researchers.

The team design circuits using a novel harmonics method and in early experiments were able to produce terahertz waves that were around 10,000 times more powerful than other attempts using silicon circuitry.

According to Ehsan Afshari, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Cornell, the goal is to "make a complete device on one CMOS chip". He said in a statement that he eventually envisages the terahertz chips taking the shape of “a tiny thing you could put in a cell phone".