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Chemists create ‘comb’ that detects terahertz waves with extreme precision

Light can come in many frequencies, only a small fraction of which can be seen by humans. Between the invisible low-frequency radio waves used by cell phones and the high frequencies associated with infrared light lies a fairly wide swath of the electromagnetic spectrum occupied by what are called terahertz, or sometimes submillimeter, waves. Exploitation of these waves could lead to many new applications in fields ranging from medical imaging to astronomy, but terahertz waves have proven tricky to produce and study in the laboratory. Now, chemists have created a device that generates and detects terahertz waves over a wide spectral range with extreme precision, allowing it to be used as an unparalleled tool for measuring terahertz waves. Due to its resemblance to a hair comb, the ruler is called a terahertz frequency comb. The new device uses ultrafast pulsed lasers, or oscillators, to produce thousands of unique frequencies of radiation distributed evenly across a spectrum like the teeth of a comb. Scientists can then use them like rulers, lining up the teeth like tick marks to very precisely measure light frequencies.

Visit Website | Image credit: Lance Hayashida/Caltech and NASA/ESA/ and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) - ESA/Hubble Collaboration