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Start-up reveals terahertz advances

10 Jul 2002

Analysis equipment that exploits terahertz waves is set to make its debut on the market later this month.

TeraView, the UK start-up developing imaging and spectroscopy equipment that makes use of terahertz radiation, is in the midst of a whirlwind of activity. In an interview with Optics.org, Don Arnone the chief executive officer, revealed that the Cambridge firm has just signed a distribution agreement with the pharmaceuticals giant Bruckner and will have its first products on the market at the end of the month.

"We're looking to align ourselves with established players, such as Bruckner, in each of our key markets," explained Arnone. "We'll produce a 'terahertz engine' and then supply it to commercial collaborators for them to market."

According to Arnone, the three big potential markets for terahertz equipment are medical imaging, drug discovery and security screening. The electromagnetic properties of terahertz waves mean that they can be used to detect cancer, suspicious chemicals such as explosives, and probe the structure of new drugs.

"Although there's lots of universities carrying out research in the field, we are the first company dedicated to commercializing terahertz technology," explained Arnone. "We've got enough capital to last us to the middle of next year, but we've hit all our milestones and we will go to market in the third or fourth quarter to raise some more money."

TeraView was spun out of Toshiba's Cambridge Research Laboratory in April 2001 and has close links with the semiconductor research group at Cambridge University. It currently has 13 staff.

The company has also just successfully tested a new type of terahertz semiconductor laser that operates in continuous wave (CW) mode. Although the prototype device, based on a quantum-cascade (QC) design conceived at NEST-INFM laboratories in Italy, currently requires cooling to 4 K, it could ultimately become a compact and convenient source costing just a few thousand dollars.

Until then, TeraView's products will rely on a femtosecond infrared laser and a semiconductor target to generate terahertz waves. "Commercial terahertz QC lasers may be another three years away," explained Arnone.

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

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