London: Coming soon: A Star Trek-style medical scanner, say scientists. And, as a major step towards achieving its goal, an international team has already developed a new way of creating a type of radiation known as Terahertz (THz) or T-rays, the `Nature Photonics` journal reported.
These rays if used in security detectors could help in the development of futuristic hand-held medical scanners, say the scientists.
In their research, the scientists from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research in Singapore and Imperial College London in the UK, have made T-rays into a stronger and directional beam than was previously thought possible and have efficiently produced T-rays at room-temperature conditions.
This breakthrough would allow future T-ray systems to be smaller, more portable, easier to operate, and much cheaper, say the scientists.
According to them, the T-ray scanner and detector could provide part of the functionality of a Star Trek-like medical "tricorder", a portable sensing, computing and communications device, since the waves are capable of detecting biological phenomena such as raised blood flow around tumorous growths.
Future scanners could also perform fast wireless data communication to transfer a high volume of information on the measurements it makes, say the scientists in a release by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research in Singapore.
T-rays are waves in the far infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum that have a wavelength hundreds of times longer than visible light. Such waves are already in use
in airport security scanners, prototype medical scanning devices and in spectroscopy systems for materials analysis.
T-rays can also sense molecules such as those present in cancerous tumours and living DNA as every molecule has its unique signature in the THz range, and can also be used to detect explosives or drugs.
Team member Stefan Maier said: "T-rays promise to revolutionise medical scanning to make it faster and more convenient, potentially relieving patients from the inconvenience of complicated diagnostic procedures and the stress of waiting for accurate results."