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TechStuff Tidbits: The Terahertz Gap

2022-04-06 | 🔗

Take a close look at the electromagnetic spectrum and you'll notice there's a span of frequencies we don't seem to use very much. Why is that?

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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take odp remember pan. Seventy five milligrams can provide migraine pain relief, which can help break the silence nerds because the first and only medication proven to treat an prevent migraines in adults. Don't take your allergic to Nurtec the most when side effects were nausea, stomach pain and indigestion for important safety prescribing and patient information visit into our t e dot com. The welcome to textile production from I heart, radio, the pay there and welcome to the text of I'm your host Jonathan Strickland, I'm an executive producer with Iheart Radio and held the tech aria. It's time for a text of tidbit And recently, my colleague Joe Mccormick, who is a co host on stuff to blow your mind, to a former writer for the forward thinking video series and he was also a co host on,
the accompanying podcast. With me back in the day he reached out to me and asked if I the ever done an episode about the terror hurts gap, and I had not in figured you'd, be a perfect candidate for a text adopted bits episode. So what the heck is? The ten hurt gap. What has to do with the electromagnetic spectrum? Now this is the distribution of all the different kinds of electromagnetic energy from radio waves to visible light to stuff like gamma radiation, and all of that is energy that falls along the electromagnetic spectrum. energy on this spectrum in a couple of different ways, really three is, namely we describe it by the energies wave links of the end.
Actual waves of that particular energy up. It's frequency, which is related to the wavelength and also in terms of photonic energy, can like how much oomph this radiation has, which is also related to wavelength and frequency So wavelength, as the name implies, describes how long that specific kind of energy's waves are so we can think of this energy as traveling in waves. If we I get quantum with it. We can also think of it as traveling and and like particles, but we're not going to get into quantum mechanics. Quite yet so When we talk about wavelength, we are talking about a measurable distance, so we were to plot out a wavelength kind of like assigned wave, graph paper. We would measure the distance from the peak of one wave to the peak of the next wave. Now these
oh into an incredible range of of wavelengths. If we look at something like the extremely low frequency band of radio waves, includes wavelengths that are up to one hundred thousand kilometers long. So a hundred using kilometers of wavelength. Now, on the flip side of the electromagnetic spectrum, we have gamma radiation the wavelength for a gamma wave is unimaginably tiny, like a few tenths of an angstrom and an angstrom, is one and billionth of a meter, so we're talking about a scale. That's order smaller than a nanometer and then is one billionth of a meter so gamma waves are real we really really small frequency on the electromagnetic spectrum on the.
her hand describes how many wavelengths of a particular type of energy passes a certain point in a given amount of time, now, the unit we use is the hearts and one hertz would be equivalent to a single wavelength, taking a full second to pass a given point, Even if we were to look at the extremely low frequency site of the spectrum where we have those super super long wavelengths like a hundred thousand kilometers long waves, we're talking about they frequency of three hurts at this which would mean that three of those waves would pass any given point in a single second now All of these energies are traveling at the same speed, so none of them are going faster than another radio wave moves at the same speed as a gamma wave they're all moving at the speed of light, I mean light- is part of the electromagnetic spectrum, so
Gamma rays do not move faster than radio waves, but his gamma rays are so incredibly small and radio waves are so incredibly long whole lot more gamma radiation is going to pass a given point in a second, then radio. asian. The analogy I like to use is imagine that you have to lanes on a highway and in right, lane is a line of buses and there's fleet, traveling bumper to bumper at fifty miles per hour in the left You have a line of eighty, be smart cars, they're also traveling bumper to bumper they're, also traveling at fifty miles per hour, and we put you at a certain point on the highway, we give you a stopwatch and we tell you to count how many buses pass by you in a span of let's say ten seconds so over ten seconds, you count the number of buses
That pass your point, then we have you do the same thing, but now you're, counting the smart cars that pass you while you is he going to count way more smart cars? Then you will buses in those ten seconds, because multiple smart cars can fit in the same physical space as a single bus, so yeah. The vehicles are all traveling at the same speed but the size. Vehicle, which relates to the length of a wave means that you're gun. get way more of the smaller ones than the bigger ones in the same amount of time as for photonic energy, so increases as wavelengths decrease and frequencies increase, so gamma radiation packs way more of an energetic punch than say an extremely low frequency, radio wave now her time we ve learned how to harness many of the frequency is that are in the electromagnetic spectrum. In order to do specific kinds of stuff
and there's. Some messy overlaps and definitions largely depend upon the source. So While I can give you ranges for different types, electromagnetic energy and say like oh, it ranges from this wavelength to this wavelength or this frequency to this frequency. Different definitions can actually have that that have a different starting place, indifferent different, ending place. So It gets a little difficult. For example, you could argue that radio waves range in frequency from three hertz to thirty billion, hertz or thirty gigahertz, but that actually overlap with what is broadly considered the microwave range of frequencies, which, according to the most common definitions, go from one Giga or one billion hurts up to one hundred billion hurts or one hundred gigahertz and frequency so there you would see, there's some overlap right. Between one and thirty gigahertz
You'd have overlap between the microwave range and the radio range, by the way we could also say that the microwave range corresponds with wave links that are between three hundred millimetres. Two three millimetres. Remember, as the wavelength goes down, the frequency goes up and vice versa. Now, let's talk about Tara, hurts and the terror hurts gap. So Tara, in this instance, prefers to trillion in the metric system. So if we go by the different prefixes that we typically use in this realm kilos it's one thousand. So a Kilo Hertz is a thousand Hertz MAC. I refer to one million megahertz would be a million hurts gig. Billion. We already mentioned that and then Tara is one trillion so. electro magnetic energy with a frequency of one terahertz, would mean you would have
one trillion. Wavelengths of this energy pass a given spot in one. Second, now there's a section of the electromagnetic spectrum that sits between the microwave range of spectrums and where infrared begins, and it starts at around point one: terror, herds and frequency around three millimetres, if or looking at wavelength, and they go up to around ten terahertz or thirty, micro meters in wavelength and That is a little fuzzy right, like all depends on your point of view, and but you're talking about how we're talking about harnessing terror hurts frequencies buds in this little section of radiation. Between microwaves and infrared, where we haven't quite really harnessed the energy to its fullest potential,
So we can use microwaves to do stuff like set up communication systems, or I mean you can use them to heat, food in a microwave, oven or potentially could use them as a means of transmitting energy to distant receptors for stuff like say space elevators. You wouldn't be generating energy. This way it would literally be you generate energy in one spot or you. I guess you're not technically reading, but your harnessing in her g in one spot transmitting it over distance with microwaves and receiving it in some distant spot. So it's a basic like antenna, kind of approach, but you're talking about Gee, not communications, not modulating. The signal for that purpose. we can leverage infrared to create systems that let us see would otherwise be darkness in a thermal vision. Works in this way where we can see through all energy, which is infrared energy or
We can use infrared to create all sorts of kinds of heating elements and there's even like infrared lasers, things of that nature and then have later on. We have the visible light spectrum, which a lot of us rely upon every single day directly and obviously a ton of our technologies is centered on generating for exploiting visible light, and then everyone's these we have stuff like X rays, which we ve leverage for medical imaging and more but this little band of about point one terahertz to ten terahertz, has proven to be a little more tricky for us to lean on I'll, explain more at we come back from this quick break. I I I What if you are a major transit system with billions of passengers taking millions of trips every year, you are about to let any cyber attack slow you down, so you part. We finally have to build a security architecture to keep your data network and applications protected. Now you can tackle threat, so they don't bring you to a grinding halt,
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in the realm of tech, you can almost think of it as kind of a no man's land, at least for broad technology. It's like a dead zone. This is the terahertz gap So we can rely on technology like high speed, transistors and oscillating circuits to create lower free, the electromagnetic radiation, so this would be like microwaves and radio waves and that kind of stuff we can use electronics to do that, for the higher frequency stuff we can use semiconductor lasers to produce that kind of radiation from you no visible light all the way up to X rays, but between these two we have that day. terahertz gap and the range and the tears gap is one where we can't really produce those frequencies. Using either of those primary methods. We have to go with other methods
I could rattle off those methods, but honestly it would start to sound like science fiction. You know, words like Quantum would be coming up, and the point being that they aren't your run of the mill approaches to eating electromagnetic radiation. It's the type of stuff you find in super high tech laboratory. However, this doesn't mean that No one has any idea regarding how we might exploit terror radiation in the future. In fact, it's it's a pretty rich area of research among physicists and it's something that astronomy prayers and cosmologists. Already use in order to study the universe so labs around the world have discovered various methodologies for generating terahertz frequencies or for the detecting terahertz radiation, but the
tsar exceptions and so far have not evolved to a point where we could say scale them up and mass produce them or make efficient use of them, where it would make sense to start using that technology for broader purposes, for these very specific, narrow purposes where you talking about laboratory research. You know like cutting edge research, it makes sense there because you could be hitting some incredible breakthroughs that you otherwise wouldn't without the technology, but for practical everyday use. It doesn't yet make sense. We have correct that code. Yet- and that's not to say there is a lack of interest there, but there are certain properties of terror, hurts frequency, energies, kind of limit their act applicability so, for example, the earth's atmosphere. darn good at absorbing electromagnetic radiation, in that terror, hurts gap range of frequencies, so we're talking about these. These forms
the Asian able to travel, maybe dozen meters before get absorbed by the atmosphere, so that makes this end of electromagnetic energy, unsuitable for stuff, like say terrestrial communication systems, because you would have to That your transmitters and receivers so close together, you might as well just start shouting out the window. Now you could potentially create short distance networking systems that used terahertz radiation. You transmit data like if you wanted to make an indoor wifi network. That's something that this technology could potentially do are most of the devices we rely on for wireless networks have a fairly limited range already. So it's not like that but be unusual to us and you could potentially have a terahertz hurts mission based indoor Wifi system that was super high throughput If we found a way to generate terahertz frequencies, that was cost effective and efficient. Now, on top of that,
liquid water will absorb terahertz hurts radiation, so there's no real application where we could use it for anything that would involve water ditto for metals. It is highly reflected off of metals, so you could say there's some, use cases for terahertz radiation. For things like communications, However, there are other properties that the synergy has that are potentially of huge benefit and in fact it's in used in that way in some limited cases. So, for example, these frequencies are capable of penetrating some types of matter putting body tissue to a certain degree that makes them kind of like X rays, but, unlike x, rays, terror. range radiation is non ionizing. So that means it doesn't have that photonic energy that would be required to say strip electrons from their atoms, so x, Ray
are an ionizing form of radiation. One of the consequences of this is that exposure to x rays can cellular damage this ionizing radiation can damage cells and you can lead to serious things like like cancer of the energy and the terahertz gap lax that ionizing capability, so it would be much more safe to use for medical imaging however, because the wavelengths in this frequency band are longer than x rays. Remember higher the free the the shorter the wavelength. So this is a lower frequency, longer wavelength, energy and you know it's actually even longer than visible light. Visible light is, is a higher frequency than the terahertz gap if we were to use devices that generated electromagnetic waves in this gap band for the purposes of imaging for medical
says, we would actually end up with lower resolution pictures than we. What if we were to use x rays that the wave links are literally too large to give us the sea resolution. We would get with an x ray, so we would have to develop methods to enhance the image quality that the we would get from these terror herds technologies. If, in fact, we were to start using them for medical Jeanne. Another potential use for terror hurts radiation, is to examine non conducting materials because, like I said it can penetrate paper, plastic would ceramics, and our board, so water and metals are out, but this other stuff is totally in Sofia We could build this technology that can be used to scan for stuff like prohibit materials like weapons or you know, illogically, hazardous materials, and it could even be a remote system you can use to hurts radiation to scan someone remotely the radiation itself
would be harmless, and as long as you weren't far away where the terahertz radiation would be absorbed by the atmosphere. You could scan folks safely and remotely astronomers have actually been using terahertz frequency detection for a while now to measure stuff, like the cosmic microwave background radiation that internally acting to the earliest moments of our universe, kind of like the moments after expansion, or even during and since our colleague being able to peer back into the earliest days of the universe, like the the Evelyn though, the universe in the in the early early times after the first instant and we might use terahertz radiation in the future to do stuff like improve manufacturing processes could build machines that use terror hurts scanning to look, Her flaws in manufactured components, for example,.
But in order to do all that, we first have to create technologies that can generate terahertz radiation without relying on these super advanced tech that you'd only find sophisticated physics labs and we're just not there. Yet, though, there's been a lot of experimentation in the space My guess is that the terahertz gap is a temporary thing. It's really just a way for us to say that, This one band of frequencies within the electromagnetic spectrum that will probably end up relying on heavily in the future for all sorts of applications. But first we have to find the and economic ways to create the tech that generates those frequencies. So it's really just a matter of time, but that's what the terror. Hurts gap is and what that means. So if you have suggestions for future text of tidbits topics, really any other tech based topic reach out. To me on twitter to handle, we use for the show, is tax stuffed each as w, I'll talk to you again really soon.
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Transcript generated on 2022-04-07.