Lecture Explores Electromagnetic Spectrum
By Gail Gallessich
Would you like to know how doctors might one day be able to see through bandages? Mark Sherwin, a professor of physics and director of the Institute for Quantum and Complex Dynamics (IQCD), will discuss this and many other technological breakthroughs in a talk titled “A Journey to the Heart of the Electromagnetic Spectrum.” The event, designed for anyone who is curious — regardless of technical background — will take place at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 10, in 1610 Broida Hall.
Most people are familiar with the electromagnetic spectrum, which includes visible light and radio waves. However, the center or “heart” of the spectrum –– called the terahertz gap –– remains a bit of a mystery. This gap is bounded by infrared wavelengths on one side and by microwaves on the other.
In terahertz frequencies, glass and water look black, while paper, cardboard, plastic, and many fabrics are transparent. This terahertz gap lies at the heart of the electromagnetic spectrum at 1,000 times below the frequencies of the visible light in a rainbow and 1,000 times above the radio frequencies used by cell phones.
While electronics (radios, computers, radar, cell phones, microwave ovens) work below 0.1 terahertz, and optics (cameras, lasers, binoculars) work at visible and infrared frequencies above 10 terahertz, very little technological development has taken place in the range of 0.1 to 10 terahertz. This is because, despite the tremendous potential application of terahertz radiation in science and technology, neither optics nor electronics work well in this frequency.
UCSB is home to one of the leading research centers in the world for advancing science and technology in the terahertz gap. Terahertz research at UCSB includes projects in materials science, electrical engineering, physics, mathematics, and chemistry and biochemistry.
This lecture will be the only public event associated with the International Workshop on Optical Terahertz Science and Technology 2009 taking place in Santa Barbara from March 7-11. The workshop, sponsored by UCSB, is expected to attract more than 200 scientists and engineers from around the world.