Research team develops a new principle to generate terahertz radiation
The “Landau-level laser” is an exciting concept for an unusual radiation source. It has the potential to efficiently generate so-called terahertz waves, which can be used to penetrate materials as well as for future data transmission. So far, however, nearly all attempts to make such a laser reality have failed. An international team of researchers has now taken an important step in the right direction: In the journal Nature Photonics (DOI: 10.1038/s41566-019-0496-1), they describe a material that generates terahertz waves by simply applying an electric current. Physicists from the German research center Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) played a significant role in this project.
Like light, terahertz waves are electromagnetic radiation, in a frequency range between microwaves and infrared radiation. Their properties are of great technological and scientific interest, as they allow fundamental researchers to study the oscillations of crystal lattices or the propagation of spin waves. Simultaneously “terahertz waves are of interest for technical applications because they can penetrate numerous substances that are otherwise opaque, such as clothing, plastics and paper,” Stephan Winnerl from HZDR’s Institute of Ion Beam Physics and Materials Research explains. Terahertz scanners are already used today for airport security checks, detecting whether passengers are concealing dangerous objects under their clothing – without having to resort to harmful X-rays.
>Read more on the FELBE at HZDR website
Image: An international research team has been able to show that it is relatively easy to generate terahertz waves with an alloy of mercury, cadmium and tellurium. To examine the behavior of the electrons in the material, the physicists use the free-electron laser FELBE at HZDR. Circularly polarized terahertz pulses (orange spiral) excite the electrons (red) from the lowest to the next higher energy level (parabolic shell). The energy gap of these so-called Landau levels can be adjusted with the help of a magnetic field. Credit : HZDR / Juniks