QuantIC awards £190k for multispectral terahertz imaging

QuantIC, the UK Hub for Quantum Enhanced Imaging, has awarded £190K to Durham University to further advance a new method of terahertz (THz) imaging. 

The research team, led by Professor Kevin Weatherill, uses laser pumped atomic vapour to perform highly efficient THz-to-optical conversion. Using this process terahertz images are acquired at high-speed using off-the-shelf optical cameras. This continuous-wave technique has been demonstrated for terahertz frequencies between 500 GHz and 1.1 THz and the team are looking to extend this range soon with a new THz source.

Terahertz radiation is finding increasing commercial applications because it penetrates many materials and is safe for biological imaging. New methods for the creation and detection of terahertz radiation are highly sought after and work on filling the ‘terahertz gap’ has been ongoing for the last few decades.

Professor Kevin Weatherill said “The biggest single selling point of our research is purely the speed and sensitivity of the method. To our knowledge, no other ‘full-field’ terahertz imaging techniques can come close to the 10 kHz frame rates that our method has demonstrated. In the past, terahertz imaging technologies have struggled to deliver on the promise of real time image acquisition. We believe that our technique delivers a potentially disruptive step-change.”

One weakness of Durham’s current method is that it operates in continuous-wave mode, meaning that it can only work at a single frequency at a time. Because many applications for terahertz radiation desire spectral information as well as spatial information, the team aim to extend their continuous-wave technique to operate at two frequencies simultaneously and/or several frequencies sequentially, thus building up spectral information of the imaging target.

The aim of this project is to implement this ‘multispectral’ terahertz imaging technique and then demonstrate its usefulness in applications inspired by industry project partners.  There are many potential applications in diverse sectors including: wind turbine inspection, water ingress in civil engineering materials, art restoration and archaeology, quality control in pharmaceutical manufacturing and medical imaging for skin conditions.

Sara Deigoli, QuantIC Director said “This is a very exciting project, and one that QuantIC is proud to support. Kevin’s project will accelerate the development of atom-based terahertz imaging technology and its uptake into numerous industrial sectors. The team are already seeing commercial interest and investment within sectors such as defence and security and civil engineering and this is exactly the kind of project the Accelerated Development Fund should be supporting.”

Launched in 2020, the Accelerated Development Fund has total budget of £2M and is designed to bring new imaging research ideas into QuantIC.  The 2022 funding round will open in Spring. https://quantic.ac.uk/preview/partnership-resource-fund/ If you wish to discuss how this research could accelerate your business please get in touch with our Business Development Team Christopher.Payne-Dwyer@glasgow.ac.uk



Full-Field Terahertz Imaging at Kilohertz Frame Rates Using Atomic Vapor; Lucy A. Downes, Andrew R. MacKellar, Daniel J. Whiting, Cyril Bourgenot, Charles S. Adams, and Kevin J. Weatherill; Phys. Rev. X 10, 011027 (2020)

Real-time near-field terahertz imaging with atomic optical fluorescence; Nature Photonics  11, pages 40–43 (2017)

First published: 14 February 2022