The same technology that allows airport staff to laugh at your genitals could soon allow dentists to check your wisdom teeth without first irradiating you with X-rays. Silicon-based terahertz range emitters and detectors, however, could shrink the airport scanner tech down to 45nm CMOS scale, according to research at the Texas Analog Center of Excellence at the University of Dallas, EETimes reports. In collaboration with Texas Instruments, they've come up with an on-chip antenna that could eventually find its way into a compact X-ray alternative machine suitable for medical professionals.
Causing headaches - metaphorically - so far has been sufficiently stabilizing the frequency of the terahertz waves, with TI and the Dallas team building on research funded earlier in 2012 by Semiconductor Research Corp. into CMOS detectors. TI uses a phase-locked loop to stabilize at around the 390GHz point, "the highest frequency ever demonstrated for a phase-locked loop" according to TI design engineer Brian Ginsburg.
Future iterations will see that number climb, however, with targets of 600GHz or higher for TI's 45nm processes. Boosting the output power is also on the agenda, with the current prototype mustering 2.2 microWatts.
As well as the health benefits from reducing potentially cancer-causing X-ray exposure, terahertz alternatives could also be more flexible in how they are implemented. Optical components such as lenses could be used to reflect and direct the waves, potentially making for more compact equipment.