A terahertz version of the single-pixel camera developed by Rice University researchers could lead to breakthrough technologies in security, telecom, signal processing, and medicine. The researchers replaced expensive, multi-pixel sensor arrays used in current terahertz imaging systems with a single sensor. Two keys to the system are the ongoing development of a modulator that would feed a rapid-fire series of randomized images to the sensor, and the compressed sensing algorithm that turns the raw data into an image.

The proof-of-concept prototype uses 600 sheets of copper (which blocks terahertz radiation) through which random holes had been punched as the modulator. Terahertz radiation penetrates fabric, wood, plastic, and even clouds, but not metal or water. Unlike X-rays, T-rays are not harmful, and cheap T-ray cameras may someday be used for security screening in airports, supplementing traditional X-ray scanners, and walk-through portals.

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