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  • A new technology improves the capacity of detection of scanners

    October 11, 2013

    Researchers from the group of Signal Theory and Communications of the University of Oviedo use graphene to create innovative systems of electromagnetic image employed in security and art

    Microscope view of the graphene inserted in the devices of the antenna.

    The group of Signal Theory and Communications of the University of Oviedo has developed an innovative technology that would allow for the improvement of the sensitivity and velocity of scanners, obtaining more precise information. To achieve this, the engineers have employed graphene, a material that has created a technological revolution due to its capabilities to access the frequency spectrum of terahertz, which offers a high degree of penetration in textiles and, despite this, whose radiations are not harmful, unlike the more common ones like X-rays.

    The result is a pioneering system of reception and emission of terahertz that improves the detection of scanners and minimizes health risks. The work of the research group, located at the Polytechnical School of Engineering of Gijón, has direct applications in the field of security and also for the analysis of works of art. This applied facet aimed at research has evolved into agreements with enterprises such as Treelogic, ITMA and INCAR.

    The devices use the frequency spectrum of terahertz, which is less harmful that the X-ray systems and able to obtain more precise information

    The technology developed at the laboratories of the University of Oviedo by the group of Signal Theory is an international referent in research lines such as the multiplication of frequency, focus antennae and reflectarrays, new techniques of electron scanning and algorythms used to approach the inverse problem of electromagnetic spread.

    The group of Signal Theory, led by Professor Fernando Las-Heras, works with nationa and international teams, among which is remarkable the close collaboration with the ALERT research center of Excellence de Northeastern University (Boston), (http://www.northeastern.edu/alert/), in the development of microwave systems and imaging algorythms for security applications.

    Two cutting-edge starting points

    Graphene and the terahertz frequency spectrum are the two cutting-edge starting points of the technology designed by the Asturian engineers. The researchers have taken advantage of the properties of graphene as a multiplier of frequencies to capture and emit a terahertz signal, a spectrum located between microwaves and the optical frequencies, that allows for the detection of relevant information in the electromagnetic images by emitting harmless radiations, unlike the ionizing radiations of the X-rays.

    The new system of transmission and reception of signals in terahertz has direct applications in the world of security and also for the analysis of works of art. This technology would enable scanners installed in airports, stations, or checkpoints in buildings or events to detect dangerous objects with a higher degree of fidelity. In the case of works of art, they could show previous drafts hidden behind the final pictorial or sculptorial work. It would also be possible to discover how the creative process developed, identify the pigments used in a painting, its author or prove the authenticity of the work.

    Graphene is used in the receptors and emitters of the new system. This material has caused a revolution due to its properties of strength, flexibility and also for being, potentially, the thinnest anti-corrosive material known. Moreover, it is an excellent electrical conductor that could become the subsitute for the new transistors in microelectronic circuits, antennae for wireless transmissions of terabits per second, and even for making objects invisible, if it is used to form metamaterials with properties of plasmonic hiding.

    The spectrum frequency of terahertz falls between the microwaves and the optical frequencies. Accessing it is a complex process from both ends, but its particular properties have piqued the curiosity of several researchers to develop new applications based on electromagnetic imaging and spectroscopy. It is a non-ionizing frequency spectrum, and thus less harmful for one's health, that has a high degree of penetration in certain types of textile materials and which provokes a unique reaction on certain substances, which may yield very interesting images or a the unique spectrographic signature that characterizes them.

    The milestones reached by the group of Signal Theory and Communications in the development of this pioneering technology have been showcased by dozens of articles published in international journals. The final push of these publications has been given by the participation in several projects with national and internationa associates, such as INSIDDE (INtegration of technological Solutions for Imaging, Detection, and Digitisation of hidden Elements in artworks; FP7), TECNIGRAF (Tecnología de imagen de banda submilimétrica-terahercios basada en grafeno para sistemas de seguridad, INNPACTO), iScat (inverse Scattering techniques for imaging: new approaches and measurement techniques) and TERASENSE (Terahertz Technology for Electromagnetic Sensing Applications, CONSOLIDER with the participation of 10 Spanish universities).

    The milestones reached by the group of Signal Theory and Communications in the development of this pioneering technology have been showcased by dozens of articles published in international journals. The final push of these publications has been given by the participation in several projects with national and internationa associates, such as INSIDDE (INtegration of technological Solutions for Imaging, Detection, and Digitisation of hidden Elements in artworks; FP7), TECNIGRAF (Tecnología de imagen de banda submilimétrica-terahercios basada en grafeno para sistemas de seguridad, INNPACTO), iScat (inverse Scattering techniques for imaging: new approaches and measurement techniques) and TERASENSE (Terahertz Technology for Electromagnetic Sensing Applications, CONSOLIDER with the participation of 10 Spanish universities).

    Main Researchers

    Samuel Ver Hoeye; Fernando Las-Heras

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