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New record achieved in terahertz pulse generation

Research team © TU Wien; Juraj Darmo, Dominic Bachmann and Karl Unterrainer

The unique properties of terahertz radiation is of interest for a wide range of potential applications, including non-invasive medical imaging and the detection of hazardous substances. Terahertz waves can penetrate many materials that are opaque to visible light and, unlike X-radiation, do not pose a risk of damage to biological tissue. In addition to this, many substances have a molecular fingerprint in the terahertz range, allowing them to be detected using spectroscopic methods. One efficient way of generating these terahertz waves is using quantum cascade lasers, which a working group led by Prof. Karl Unterrainer at the Photonics Institute at TU Wien has been researching and developing. Quantum cascade lasers consist of a precisely defined sequence of several hundred semiconductor layers that measure just a few nanometers in thickness. This special construction means there is the freedom to select the exact energy state at which the electrons stay within the semiconductor structure. This allows the frequency of the laser light emitted to be adjusted to suit the application in question.

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