New metamaterial paves way for terahertz technologies

October 24, 2016 by Matthew Chin, University of California, Los Angeles
Figure showing how the metamaterial, with cross-chaped openings, can deflect a terahertz beam’s angle. Credit: University of California, Los Angeles

A research team led by UCLA electrical engineers has developed an artificial composite material to control of higher-frequency electromagnetic waves, such as those in the terahertz and far-infrared frequencies.

The material, specifically a metamaterial because it is has properties not found in nature, could be transformative for imaging, sensing and communication applications. It could be used for quality control in pharmaceutical production lines, scanning pills at high speeds to look for any defects; to spot cancerous tumors at early stages using tomography; or for forming adaptive high data-rate communication channels.

"Terahertz frequencies in particular offer some unique advantages, for example they can 'see' some details not otherwise 'visible' in other parts of the spectrum," said Mona Jarrahi, an associate professor of electrical engineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. "However their use is not widespread. Current systems require a mechanical scanning technique to steer or guide the focus area of the terahertz beam, much like a how an office copy machine uses a moving arm underneath the glass to capture an image."

Despite extensive progress developing mechanical beam-steering techniques through miniaturization and the utilization of micro-electro mechanical systems, the potential use is still limited. Those tiny systems are complex with moving parts and for terahertz-based systems, they have not been practical. The team's solution is simple.

"Our new metamaterial acts as a kind of moving lens that can focus on different areas of an object, but instead of being moved mechanically, its focus point is instead controlled electronically by changing an electric current that moves through it," Jarrahi said. "The material itself never moves."

The material is made up of metal-coated vanadium dioxide on silicon and is punctured with cross-shaped openings. It would be placed in front of the radiation beam used in an imaging or sensing application. Depending on the level of electric current, the material can deflect the beam's focus point by as much as 44 degrees, both vertically and horizontally.

The new technology could lead to imaging, sensing and communication technologies in terahertz and far-infrared frequencies that are more reliable, compact, cost-effective and faster than the current state-of-the-art, the researchers said.

The research paper has been published online in Nature Scientific Reports.

Explore further: Researchers develop new lens for terahertz radiation

More information: Mohammed Reza M. Hashemi et al. Electronically-Controlled Beam-Steering through Vanadium Dioxide Metasurfaces, Scientific Reports (2016). DOI: 10.1038/srep35439

Related Stories

Researchers develop new lens for terahertz radiation

March 14, 2016

Terahertz radiation is a relatively unexplored slice of the electromagnetic spectrum, but it holds the promise of countless new imaging applications as well as wireless communication networks with extremely high bandwidth. ...

Metamaterials shine bright as new terahertz source

April 23, 2015

Metamaterials allow design and use of light-matter interactions at a fundamental level. An efficient terahertz emission from two-dimensional arrays of gold split-ring resonator metamaterials was discovered as a result of ...

Researchers develop 'metasurface' laser for terahertz range

December 18, 2015

Researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have identified a new way to make a semiconductor laser that operates at terahertz frequencies. The breakthrough could lead to development of ...

Light-powered 3-D printer creates terahertz lens

April 29, 2016

From visible light to radio waves, most people are familiar with the different sections of the electromagnetic spectrum. But one wavelength is often forgotten, little understood, and, until recently, rarely studied. It's ...

Team develops new metamaterial device

February 24, 2009

An engineered metamaterial proved it can function as a state-of-the-art device in the complex terahertz range of the electromagnetic spectrum, setting a standard of performance for modulating tiny waves of radiation, according ...

Recommended for you

Coffee-based colloids for direct solar absorption

March 22, 2019

Solar energy is one of the most promising resources to help reduce fossil fuel consumption and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to power a sustainable future. Devices presently in use to convert solar energy into thermal ...

Physicists reveal why matter dominates universe

March 21, 2019

Physicists in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University have confirmed that matter and antimatter decay differently for elementary particles containing charmed quarks.

ATLAS experiment observes light scattering off light

March 20, 2019

Light-by-light scattering is a very rare phenomenon in which two photons interact, producing another pair of photons. This process was among the earliest predictions of quantum electrodynamics (QED), the quantum theory of ...

How heavy elements come about in the universe

March 19, 2019

Heavy elements are produced during stellar explosion or on the surfaces of neutron stars through the capture of hydrogen nuclei (protons). This occurs at extremely high temperatures, but at relatively low energies. An international ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.