Members of the Rensselaer terahertz sensing research team (Photo: Rensselaer/Daria Robbins)
Hidden explosives, chemical weapons, biological agents and illegal drugs could one day be optically detectable from up to 20 meters away. How? Well, every substance has its own unique terahertz (THz) radiation “fingerprint”, the waves of which pass through anything other than metal or liquid. Scientists from New York state’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are working on a way of analyzing those waves, then determining what substance they’re emanating from. The process would be harmless to both the subject and the observer, and could make the world a much safer place.