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TeraView unveils terahertz triumph

10 Sep 2003

The first commercial system for terahertz spectroscopy makes its market debut.

A UK partnership claims to have launched the world’s first commercial spectrometer that operates in the terahertz region of the electromagnetic spectrum.

The TPI Spectra 1000 system, which resembles a photocopier on wheels, was unveiled at the ICAVS conference on spectroscopy in Nottingham, UK, two weeks ago. It analyzes the chemical composition and structure of a sample by illuminating it with a series of terahertz pulses and collecting a transmission spectrum.

The developers, TeraView, a Cambridge-based spin-off from Toshiba Research Europe, and Bruker Optics, a spectrometer specialist, say that the TPI system is “expected to significantly advance the critical stages of pharmaceutical drug discovery.”

“We wanted to get the technology out there and people using it and producing spectra,” explained Paul Smith, Teraview’s business development manager. “This is a general purpose spectrometer for use in the semiconductor, foods, materials industries as well as pharmaceuticals,”

According to Smith, two other terahertz products will be “rolled out” within the next 12 months to address specific needs in the pharmaceuticals sector.

Terahertz spectroscopy, which makes use of waves with a frequency between the infrared and microwave, has for sometime been touted as an exciting new tool for drug discovery, medical imaging and security screening. However, to date much of the work has been confined to experiments in research institutes and universities.

This situation now looks set to change with money being invested to commercialize the technology. Several other firms, including the US ventures Picometrix and Zomega, are also building systems. However, TeraView stresses that it is the first to produce a complete standalone self-contained spectrometer.

Smith says that TeraView has already received some orders for the TPI Spectra 1000, which retails for around GBP 250 000. However, he admits that the challenge is now to reduce the size and price-tag of the technology.

“We’re still dependent on quite a large expensive laser which is integrated into the system,” said Smith. “We’re now working on ways of addressing this with the aim of producing a desktop terahertz system.”

Author
Oliver Graydon is editor of Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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