A team of NJIT researchers won a contract from the Technical Support Working Group (TSWG) to explore the use of terahertz (THz) electromagnetic radiation to detect and identify explosives and biological agents by means of a spectroscope. TSWG is the U.S. national forum that identifies, prioritizes, and coordinates interagency and international research and development (R&D) requirements for combating terrorism. The contract puts the terahertz project., led by John Federici, professor of physics, Robert Barat, professor of chemistry, and Dale Gary, professor of physics, on a fast track. TSWG rapidly develops technologies and equipment to meet the high priority needs of the combating terrorism community, and addresses joint international operational requirements through cooperative R&D with major allies. The team also has funding from the Army Research Office, and their industrial collaborator, Picometrix, Inc., of Ann Arbor, Mich., a manufacturer of high-speed optical receivers and ultrafast instrumentation, has been awarded a Phase II Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant to develop the system.

Terahertz radiation occupies of the far-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum. What makes THz technology an attractive method of detection is its ability to detect biological agents and explosives through their characteristic transmission or reflectivity spectra in the Terahertz (THz) range. In essence, these materials appear as different "colors" to the THz radiation. Explosives and biological agents can be detected even if they are concealed in clothing, sealed packages, suitcases, since THz radiation is readily transmitted through plastics, clothing, luggage, paper products, walls, and other non-metals. Read research papers on noninvasive detection of explosives and on detection of biological materials.