February 19, 2007 “T-rays” have been touted as the next breakthrough in sensing and imaging, but the need for bulky equipment has been an obstacle to reaching the field’s potential. Enter Brian Schulkin, winner of the first-ever $30,000 Lemelson-Rensselaer Student Prize. Schulkin has invented an ultralight, handheld terahertz spectrometer — an advance that could help catapult T-ray technology from the lab bench to the marketplace. Schulkin’s “Mini-Z” is dramatically smaller and lighter than any previous terahertz device, and it already has proven its ability to detect cracks in space shuttle foam, image tumors in breast tissue, and spot counterfeit watermarks on paper currency. The system, which weighs less than five pounds and fits snugly in a briefcase, could open the door to a wide range of applications in homeland security, biomedical imaging, and nondestructive testing of industrial components.
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