Canon is now focusing on three research topics: Terahertz (THz) Imaging, which enables imaging on the inside of an object; Digital Mass Microscopy, which enables the visualization of the distribution of living substances to support pathological diagnosis; and a Skin Gas Sensing technology, which helps diagnosis at a very early stage based on component analysis of gas released from the skin. In addition, Canon is highly regarded for its research across a wide range of other fields, with scientific societies around the world often requesting the company to make presentations. The company is taking on the challenge of creating seeds of technology to build new markets through true technological innovation.
To date, research into electromagnetic waves with frequencies of 100 GHz or lower has focused on communications applications, while research into those with frequencies of 10 THz or higher has concentrated on optical technologies. In recent years, however, an unexplored frequency region called Terahertz (THz), which lies between radio waves and visible light, has come to the fore.
THz radiation is noteworthy for its ability to pass through materials and discern between different material types. THz radiation passes through paper, cloth and even thin concrete layers in the same way as radio waves. When passing through a material, THz radiation leave a spectral fingerprint made up of an array of material-specific absorption bands and reflection bands, which help to identify the material.
Many sectors have high expectations for THz radiation as a useful imaging technology for its ability to make the invisible visible. THz radiation offers a wide range of applications, including the detection of organic substances in food packages, non-intrusive quality checking of products and such medical-related uses as blood testing, pathological diagnosis of cancer cells, and quality checking of pill-form medicinal drugs.
Compared with other frequency ranges, the practical use of THz radiation, which offers a variety of valuable applications, has lagged for a number of reasons. One such reason has been the lack of light-emitting devices capable of producing a light source for THz radiation.
Recognizing the imaging possibilities of THz radiation, Canon has been pursuing the development of a light-emitting device from an early stage. Through many years of R&D based on process technologies accumulated through the design and development of semiconductor laser devices, the company has succeeded in generating THz radiation on semiconductor chips. Canon created a surface-emitting chip capable of emitting THz radiation from a chip surface using a patch antenna. The surface-emitting design allows higher output compared with conventional antenna configurations. The design also offers superior characteristics not offered by competitors, including the ability to emit waves continuously and operate at ordinary temperatures. With this success, Canon has won awards from the academic community both in Japan and overseas. Canon's THz light-emitting device is expected to accelerate the practical use of a wide region of THz radiation.