Expect sales of underarm deodorant to increase when security scanners get smaller and more portable

Researchers in Israel and Germany have successfully integrated nano-antennae into a microchip, opening up the possibility of cheaper, more portable security scanners and communications devices.

The chip, which measures 0.5 mm by 0.5 mm, can receive and transmit millimetre wave or terahertz radiation. When combined with either mechanical or electronic scanning technology, the resulting radiation can produce an image. According to the research teams from Tel Aviv and Frankfurt Universities, the radiation-emitting chips could form the basis of sophisticated detection technology able to meet everyday security needs.

The research involves embedding different materials into CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor) substrates to add new capabilities and create integrated circuits at affordable prices. CMOS is used in most microchip technology nowadays and can be found in modern computers and smartphones.

Millimetre wave scanners, which work by throwing electromagnetic waves at people and “reading” the reflected energy to detect concealed weapons and explosives, are becoming commonplace in airports and border control points. However, the systems are often expensive and large, making them unsuitable for use in places such as train and bus stations, stadiums, or malls, where they could be beneficial. Dr. Eran Socher, lead researcher from Tel Aviv University, said: “Our concept is different. For everyday use, security technology needs to be both small and cheap.”

According to Dr. Socher, the chip is unlike X-Ray technology in that it only sees through materials such envelopes, clothing, or luggage, stopping at the human skin. The chip works with radiation levels that are lower than those of a mobile phone, circumventing health concerns. Also, the chip can also produce a more accurate depiction of concealed objects, an advantage over common metal detectors which aren’t very specific or sensitive.

The chips, which have a range of only a few meters but operate at high frequencies, can also be used for high speed communications, added Dr. Socher. The data rate can range from 1 to ten gigabytes per second, so the chip could be used to transfer a file — like an uncompressed high-definition video from a mobile device to a screen or projector — wirelessly and within seconds.

Communications and software companies have already expressed an interest in this technology, he said and the researchers have received a grant from the Broadcom Foundation in the US to further develop the research.

The research has been published in IEEE Microwave and Wireless Components Letters and will be presented at the International Conference on Infrared, Millimeter, and Terahertz Waves in Australia this September.

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