Researchers have created a terahertz laser using laughing gas. (Yep.) These lasers can be small, tunable, and much more efficient. They could fit in a backpack, in your vehicle for wireless communication, or they could be used for high-resolution imaging.
Credit: National Science Foundation/Karson Productions
Seeing it through.
I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files, from the National Science Foundation.
Someday your doctor might look at your stats and check your T-rays. Not X-rays, your T-rays. A safer kind of imaging. Or at the airport you might have your backpack scanned using T-ray vision. The 'T' stands for terahertz -- radiation whose frequencies are higher than microwaves, and lower than visible light. A research team from MIT, Harvard and the US Army has found a new, compact way to harness terahertz frequencies not only for medical imaging and security, but also wireless communication.
Scientists started experimenting with creating T-wave lasers back in the 70's, -- typically very large or only worked at one frequency. More recently, the team came up with a new mathematical theory that showed t-waves could be generated by spinning up the energy of gas molecules not in a chamber yards long, but one the size of a pen.
Funny, they found an ideal gas to use was nitrous oxide -- laughing gas -- pumped into the tiny chamber. When exposed to infrared laser light, the gas molecules spun up enough to create a terahertz laser that can be tuned to control how far the waves will travel. A feature especially useful for t-ray wireless communication.
Retro technology gets a whole new lease on -- light.
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