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Graphene detector sees invisible THz waves

Posted: 08 Sep 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:dectector? terahertz? graphene?

A University of Maryland (UMD) research takes detection to a new level, having developed a prototype detector that claims to see a broad band of wavelengths including those that are invisible to the human eyeterahertz wavesusing the special properties of graphene.

The prototype "could find applications in emerging terahertz fields such as mobile communications, medical imaging, chemical sensing, night vision and security," according to Xinghan Cai, UMD physics graduate student and lead author of the research paper.

Terahertz light waves are made up of long wavelengths and low frequencies that fall between microwaves and infrared waves. The light in these wavelengths can pass through materials that we normally think of as opaque, such as skin, plastics, clothing and cardboard. It can also be used to identify chemical signatures that are emitted only in the terahertz range.

Few technological applications for terahertz detection are currently realised, however, in part because it is difficult to detect light waves in this range. In order to maintain sensitivity, most detectors need to be kept extremely cold, around -269.15C. Existing detectors that work at room temperature are bulky, slow and prohibitively expensive.

The prototype room temperature detector, developed by the UMD team and colleagues at the U.S. Naval Research Lab and Monash University, gets around size and cost challenges by using graphenea single layer of interconnected carbon atoms. The graphene properties work to increase the speed and maintain the sensitivity of room temperature wave detection in the terahertz range.

Graphene detector

Top-down view of broadband, ultra-fast graphene detector capable of capturing terahertz frequencies at room temperature. Source: UMD, Thomas Murphy

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