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A consortium of researchers from industry and academia has developed a low-cost, accurate terahertz imaging system for multiple applications, including aviation security screening.
The four-year, EUR3.15 million (USD3.55 million) TeraTOP programme was funded by the European Commission in its 7th Framework Programme (FP7).
Researchers built and successfully tested a demonstrator system, comprising a 24x24 focal plane array of detectors and readout circuitry operating in video imaging mode.
Earlier research into the aviation security applications of terahertz systems, operating in the 0.3-10 THz frequency range, encountered obstacles related to a lack of devices and circuits suitable for mass production and the need for extensive cooling during use; but TeraTOP partners believe they have created a solution to these problems, as their system uses a terahertz imaging device with complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology.
CMOSs are widely used in computer processors and mobile phone camera chips, so integrating the technology into a terahertz screening system should cut production overheads while also improving performance.
This is because the demonstration system developed under TeraTOP functions in the 0.5-1.5 THz range, using a specially developed terahertz sensor that operates at room temperature. In contrast, other terahertz-based systems need costly cryogenic cooling to under -200°C.
The eight-strong TeraTOP consortium included: Centre Suisse d'Electronique et de Microtechnique of Switzerland (Switzerland - co-ordinator); Airbus Group Innovations (Germany - formerly EADS Innovation Works, including EADS Deutschland); CEA-LETI (France); IBM Research - Haifa (Israel); IBM Research (Switzerland); QMC Instruments (UK); Technion Israel Institute of Technology (Israel); and the University of Wuppertal (Germany).