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Xi-Cheng Zhang

Xi-Cheng Zhang will lead Rensselaer’s Center for Terahertz Research. Photo by Gary Gold.

Keck Grant Supports Terahertz Research

A $1 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation of Los Angeles will establish the W.M. Keck Laboratory for Terahertz Science within a new Center for Terahertz Research at Rensselaer.

The laboratory will expand the Institute’s pioneering work in the development of terahertz science and technology.

Xi-Cheng Zhang, the J. Erik Jonsson ’22 Distinguished Professor of Science, will lead the laboratory and the center. Zhang is a world leader in the field of terahertz (“THz” or “T-ray”) research.

The terahertz frequency range, which lies between microwave and infrared frequencies, presents the next frontier in imaging and sensing science and technology.

“Under the leadership of Dr. Xi-Cheng Zhang, the terahertz research team at Rensselaer has become the world leader in the development and application of terahertz technology,” said President Jackson. “The support of the W.M. Keck Foundation will now allow the Rensselaer team to do what no other research group has done before: to create and detect terahertz waves at extreme levels, in the nonlinear range. The potential gains to be made by this research will form the next frontier in scientific discovery.”

Terahertz sensing and imaging systems that allow us to see through walls have the potential to examine and identify asbestos or radiation contamination, search for land mines or plastic explosives, or to help police locate hostages, terrorists, and weapons during a standoff. Terahertz-based tools will be valuable in many other fields, including biomedical imaging, agriculture, forensic science, and food safety. Scientists expect that terahertz science will have a profound impact on biotechnology. In biotechnology, T-ray spectroscopy of biological molecules could provide new tools to study protein folding or a monolayer of DNA.

The funding from Keck will allow the purchase of advanced instrumentation for the terahertz laboratory including a three-phase terawatt laser system, which generates intense terahertz rays. The terawatt system will be coupled with an infrared spectrometer, optical tables, and a vacuum deposition system.

Rensselaer Magazine: December 2002
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