New T-ray technology could bring Star Trek like hand-held medical scanners one step closer to reality

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by Tim Bredrup

The dream of a Star Trek-style hand held medical scanner is now closer due to a new development in electromagnetic Terahertz (THz) wave technology, also known as T-rays. This technology,  also seen in full-body security scanners, is currently able to detect very small and otherwise hidden biological phenomena such as increased blood flow around tumorous growths.

Until recently, T-ray technology applications were too expensive and generated only low powers. But researchers are now claiming their new methods of creating T-rays in a stronger, more continuous wave-like fashion will make for improved medical scanning devices that could lead to gadgets much like the “tricorder” scanner made famous by Star Trek.

“T-rays are waves in the far infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum that have a wavelength hundreds of times longer than those that make up visible light,” the UK’s Daily Mail explains, “but researchers have created a strong beam of T-rays by shining light of differing wavelengths on a pair of electrodes, using a tiny gap between them as an antenna to amplify the signal. The output is 100 times more powerful than conventional methods (and) could lead to medical tests becoming quicker and more convenient for patients.”

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore, and Imperial College London, recently published a study in Nature Photonics stating that they were able to focus the rays into a much stronger directional beam than originally thought possible. Such an innovation could lead to T-ray devices that are smaller, cheaper, and easier to use.

Research co-author Stefan Maier, of Imperial College London, said:

‘T-rays promise to revolutionize medical scanning to make it faster and more convenient, potentially relieving patients from the inconvenience of complicated diagnostic procedures and the stress of waiting for accurate results.’

Source: UK Daily Mail

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