Home > News > Amazing breakthrough – terahertz quantum cascade lasers can now be used outside of laboratories

Amazing breakthrough – terahertz quantum cascade lasers can now be used outside of laboratories

wallpapers News 2020-07-13

Lasers are amazing and they have millions of potential applications. However, some lasers can only work in presine lab environments, which limits their use. For example, quantum cascade laser, generating terahertz radiation, could not work in the wild.

But now scientists from the University of Waterloo and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed such a powerful portable laser device.

Actual terahertz quantum cascade lasers measure only a few millimetres in length and are thinner than a human hair. Image credit: Tommology via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Quantum cascade lasers are very useful for scientists, but it’s been known for a long time that they could be used outside of labs as well. For example, scientists believe that they would be particularly useful for medical imaging and even detection of hidden explosives. Terahertz quantum cascade laser could also be used in communications, quality control, security and biochemistry.

However, quantum cascade lasers always had one problem – they needed extremely low temperature –  less than -100 degrees Celsius – to operate. But now scientists in Canada and the US reached a breakthrough, which will set the terahertz quantum cascade laser free from the lab.

Scientists developed an extremely small quantum laser, which is capable of generating terahertz radiation outside of the laboratory. This is because it can operate at much higher temperatures than previous devices that were laboratory-bound. This new device can function at temperatures of up to -23 degrees Celsius, which means that it only needs a compact thermoelectric cooler, not bulky cryogenic equipment.

The laser itself measures only a few millimetres in length and is thinner than a human hair, but, of course, the operational device is a bit bigger. Scientists have been researching the photonic terahertz device physics since 1991 and this is a real major breakthrough.

Zbig Wasilewski, a physicist and professor of electrical and computer engineering and one of the scientists in this study, said: “Many authorities in the field didn’t believe these devices could work outside a laboratory environment or anywhere close to room temperature. Our combined expertise just changed this paradigm.”

Scientists think that one of the immediate applications for this laser could be a portable system, including a compact camera and a detector, which could be used for skin cancer screening or during surgical procedures. Quantum cascade lasers working at a terahertz spectrum would be useful for many, but, of course, scientists will want to fine tune the device before releasing it out into the wild.

Laser technology is developing very quickly and you can see why – it is universally needed. Scientists call this recent development a breakthrough, because a part of a promising laser technology is becoming more portable. Let’s see what will come out of it.


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