In DepthTechnology

New chip-based lasers promise practical terahertz imaging

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Science  06 Nov 2020:
Vol. 370, Issue 6517, pp. 647
DOI: 10.1126/science.370.6517.647

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Summary

Compact, chip-based lasers have conquered much of the electromagnetic spectrum, from ultraviolet to infrared, enabling technologies from digital communications and bar code readers to laser pointers and printers. But one key region of the spectrum remained untamed: the terahertz band, which lies between infrared light and microwaves. Engineers hankered for a ready source of terahertz radiation, which can penetrate opaque objects and probe chemical fingerprints inside. But compact terahertz lasers have only worked at ultralow temperatures, limiting them mostly to laboratory settings. There have been demonstrations, but not widely deployed. No longer. This week, researchers report creating a grain-of-rice–size terahertz laser on a chip that operates at 250 K, or –23°C, warm enough to be chilled by a plug-in cooler the size of a cracker.

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