New, Small Device can Bend Light to Generate New Radiation


Synchrotron radiation is when physicists vend intense beams of charged particles in circular orbits / Photo By rvika via 123RF


A  group of physicists have begun developing a device that is capable of bending light inside a crystal to generate synchrotron radiation. Synchrotron radiation is when physicists vend intense beams of charged particles in circular orbits near the speed of light, which throws off bits of light or X-rays as a result of the bending.

Generally speaking, this kind of radiation is usually generated in larger facilities -- the size of several football stadiums, in fact. This might be a new breakthrough in this particular field as these physicists from the University of Michigan (U-M) have managed to produce the same kind of radiation from a very small device. Roberto Merlin, a U-M researcher, states, “Instead of using lenses and spatial light modulators to perform this kind of experiment, we figured out by simply patterning a surface with a metasurface (a pattern of microscopic gold antennae on a polished face of a lithium tantalate crystal), you can achieve a similar end.” This could cut down on a lot of costs as well as space, as this could revolutionize the way synchrotron radiation could be produced on a smaller scale. This level of radiation is also in the range of Terahertz, which is generally used for the study of behavior of atoms or molecules within a given solid, liquid, or gas. The more common use of this kind of radiation is to scan items hidden in clothing and packaging crates, detecting unique ‘fingerprints’ of different toxic gases and explosives.

Although the device is currently in its testing stage, the team plans to continue their research into this device and to make sure it becomes as efficient as possible. The device is expected to have many uses in different markets. Meredith Henstridge, one of the lead researchers behind this device, even states, “Terahertz radiation is useful for imaging in the biomedical sciences, for instance, it has been used to distinguish between cancerous and healthy tissue.”