A new material manufacturing method may prove to be the keystone for manipulating terahertz waves, which are championed as the future of communications and security.
Scientists at the Los Alamos National Lab and the University of California-Santa Barbara have invented metamaterials, which are better able to harness terahertz waves and bend them to the scientists’ will. This is a significant development because available devices can emit or detect the terahertz waves but can’t do a single thing to change them. (One kind of detector now in limited use screens airline passengers for hidden weapons.)
These metamaterials have made-to-order electromagnetic properties that can create enough variance in voltage to change the amplitude of terahertz signals. In simple terms, it means that scientists are very close to being able to manipulate terahertz waves easily in the same way that they now do with laser beams. At the very least, the new method will help clear up the inherent blurriness in terahertz detectors.
The ultimate goal of all of this is to improve speed and depth of wave communication. Microwaves are good, but they are limited in terms of quality and strength. terahertz waves are short compared to microwaves, but they have the potential to revolutionize communications devices with their speed and accuracy.
Another important use of manipulatable terahertz is in the field of medicine. X-rays currently pose radiation risks to patients. Terahertz waves, which would do the same thing, carry no such risk.