European Project Creates X-Ray of the Future | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 02.10.2002
  1. Inhalt
  2. Navigation
  3. Weitere Inhalte
  4. Metanavigation
  5. Suche
  6. Choose from 30 Languages


European Project Creates X-Ray of the Future

German scientist Alfred Zinn is part of an international group of scientists working and living together to develop a pioneering new camera with implications for Earth and space in less than five months.


A new terahertz imaging camera could replace X-rays at airports and help determine the origins of the galaxies

Reality TV shows like "Big Brother" may be long dead in Germany, but their spirits live on -- at least in the world of science.

Zinn is among 11 hand-picked engineers, chemists and physicists from all over the world who have been living together, Big Brother style, at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in England's Oxfordshire region to develop a pioneering new terahertz imager.

Shut in together for 5 months, the 11 scientists are working on the development of this camera, which is part of the European Space Agency's (ESA) “Star Tiger” initiative. The “Space Technology Advancements by Resourceful Targeted and Innovative Groups of Experts and Researchers” program aims to dramatically accelerate development time for critical space technology.

Good news for airports

Terahertz imaging, so-named for submillimeter electromagnetic waves that fall between 1 and 0.01 millimeters, is achieved by observing the natural submillimetre waves emitted by most things. Unlike light, terahertz waves can pass through windows, paper, clothing and, in certain instances, even walls.

The potential applications are limitless -- from airport security to high-end astronomy. In the future, terahertz technology could be used to give humans the harmless equivalent of the X-ray scan their baggage is currently subjected to as part of airport security checks.

The technology could also prove critical for astronomists.“In the field of planetary, cometary and atmospheric sensing, imaging arrays capable of measuring height-resolved spectral features in the submillimetre frequency range will have a major impact on instrumentation for monitoring issues such as climate change and ozone chemistry," Star Tiger project manager Peter de Maagt recently said.

Access to the extra data could help astronomers determine how galaxies and stars are formed, too.

At the conclusion of its marathon four months of research, the group is seeking to build the first-ever compact submillimetre wave camera complex enough to capture a colour terahertz image of a hand -- a project that would normally take years.

Scientists inside the container

Star Tiger team members, who have been living and working together at the Rutherford lab without the usual bureaucratic distractions, and have been reporting regularly on their developments, success' and fears since June, are aiming to complete their task by the end of this week.

Zinn recently told German weekly broadsheet "Die Zeit" that the close quarters were key to getting great results.

It is a “wonderful feeling,” he told the paper, “to be aiming for a common goal. Capitalistic, competitive thoughts don’t bring you any closer to getting there ... only when everyone pulls on the same rope can you win”, he stressed.

That appears to be happening. With only three days to go until their self-imposed deadline, the Star Tiger team obtained its first passive image of a hand at terahertz frequency on Tuesday.

WWW links