There’s a certain part of the light spectrum that if you harness it, would allow you to see through walls and even through skin. It’s known as the terahertz radiation spectrum — or T-rays — and it falls between infrared and microwave. (see

Nature Nanotechnology).

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Detecting those tiny wavelength, sub-millimeter to be exact, has been a huge challenge. T-ray detectors typically need to be kept at extremely cold temperatures, as low as -452 degrees Fahrenheit. Unpractical for field applications, to say the least.

But now a group of researchers from the University of Maryland has used graphene — an atom-thick sheet of carbon — as a sensor that can detect T-rays at room temperature.

Because the graphene detector can be made fairly easily, the researchers think arrays of detector pixels could be amassed into lenses in night-vision goggles that could see through walls or through clothing, the way that airport scanners do.

You can imagine the covert military applications. But such a detector could also work in radio astronomy to detect faint radiation in the cosmos, too.

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And T-rays are great for such a device because they can see through most everything but are less destructive to biological tissue than X-rays.

The researchers reported their results in this week’s

Nature Nanotechnology.


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