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Terahertz Imaging and Bi-Directional Reflection Function Measurements for Homeland Security

Summary:

Far-infrared (Terahertz or THz, 25 to 300 micron wavelength) femtosecond laser methods are employed to generate high power broadband pulses for far-field imaging applications. We are developing real-time pulsed imaging of objects as well as exploring THz hyperspectral imaging as a means to discover concealed threat materials relevant to Homeland Security. Measurement of the bi-directional reflection function (BRDF) at THz frequencies is being conducted to better understand pulse propagation and distortion effects after reflection from designed standards and common concealment materials.

Description:

We employ novel ultrafast laser terahertz techniques to generate high power picosecond pulses for reflection imaging applications. A large area (2 cm x 2 cm) biased GaAs photoconductive switch produces THz pulses with sufficient bandwidth (0.3 to 2 THz) for far-field reflection hyperspectral imaging. Alternatively, the output from a femtosecond regenerative amplifier (800 nm, 40 fs, 1 KHz repetition rate, 1.7 mJ/pulse) is wavefront tilted using a grating to generate high power (ca.1 uJ/pulse) THz pulses with peak power at 650 GHz using a nonlinear Litium Niobate crystal. Reflected pulses are collected by a large area reflection telescope and the THz image is relayed onto a (1x1) cm2 ZnTe electro-optic image up-convering crystal. Weak 800 nm gating pulses from the Ti:Sapphire laser system (see Terahertz Apparatus/Facilities page) are used to extract the image imposed on the detection crystal and relayed onto a cooled CCD detector for imaging.  

In parallel to our THz spectroscopy efforts, we are also developing novel methods for real-time pulsed THz imaging of far-field objects and to perform hyperspectral imaging of inhomogeneous materials, threat agents and other species relevant to Homeland Security needs. This wavelength range is particularly attractive because THz radiation readily transmits through most plastics, cloth, papers and other non-metallic, low-density materials. Detailed analysis of high power source and THz pulse propagation is required as well as specialized collection optics to optimize image resolution. Spectral characterization of materials in an image scene at several meter reflection distances is being explored.    

BRDF measurements with (top) and without (below) the index card sample taped to the sample mount front surface. The without sample case shows strong evidence of THz pulse reflection from the sample mount. These measurements were taken without the input iris that is normally set at diameter of 1.5 cm (to restrict the beam size) in front of the sample. Evidence for stray optical reflections is also found from responses before zero delay time.

BRDF pulsed THz scattering measurements with (top) and without (below) the index card sample taped to the sample mount front surface. This without sample case shows strong evidence of THz pulse reflection from the metal  sample mount. These measurements were taken without the input iris that is normally set at diameter of 1.5 cm (to restrict the beam size) in front of the sample. Evidence for stray optical reflections is also found from responses before zero delay time.

Angular pulsed Terahertz reflection amplitude map for a sample of corduroy cloth with 3.2 mm rib spacing. (a) Power dependent response showing temporal oscillations resulting from individual rib scatter radiating from the cloth front and rear surfaces; (b) Superimposed Fourier Transform amplitude and power reflection map of the raw scattering data exhibiting the spatial equivalent of diffraction and fit to the data exhibiting several orders of diffraction.

Angular pulsed Terahertz reflection amplitude map for a sample of corduroy cloth with 3.2 mm rib spacing. (a) Power dependent response showing temporal oscillations resulting from individual rib scatter radiating from the cloth front and rear surfaces; (b) Superimposed Fourier Transform amplitude and power reflection map of the raw scattering data exhibiting the spatial equivalent of diffraction and fit to the data exhibiting several orders of diffraction.
 
In earlier imaging experiments (circa 2003-2008), it was found that near-field imaging (<1 meter) of reflective objects retained expected spatial resolution at THz frequencies. However, objects placed at ca. 3 meters from the generator produced distorted images, probably arising from pulse interference or depolarization effects. We are exploring ways to circumvent these issues by using our& new highpower Lithium Niobate generator and the 240x360 pixel room temperature bolometer array 30 Hz camera system and custom wideband imaging optics.

Bi-directional Reflection Function apparatus CAD design (top) and its implementation attached to pulsed THz imaging apparatus (bottom). The stacked rotation stages permit manual selection of the incident angle of the pulsed THz output beam and angularly synchronized collection mirrors allow propagation of horizontal or vertically polarized radiation to be collected and processed by the imager.

Bi-directional Reflection Function apparatus CAD design (top) and its implementation attached to pulsed THz imaging apparatus (bottom). The stacked rotation stages permit manual selection of the incident angle of the pulsed THz output beam and angularly synchronized collection mirrors allow propagation of horizontal or vertically polarized radiation to be collected and processed by the imager.
Bi-directional Reflection Function apparatus CAD design (top) and its implementation attached to pulsed THz imaging apparatus (bottom). The stacked rotation stages permit manual selection of the incident angle of the pulsed THz output beam and angularly synchronized collection mirrors allow propagation of horizontal or vertically polarized radiation to be collected and processed by the imager.

 

These investigations use a state-of-the-art, KHz rep-rate amplified 45 femtosecond pulsed laser for broadband (0.2-2.5) THz GaAs antenna generation and detection using a ZnTe electro-optic crystal. See the Terahertz Apparatus/Facilities page for more detailed information.

 

Selected Publications:  

  • M. B. Campbell and E. J. Heilweil, “Non-invasive detection of weapons of mass destruction using THz radiation,” in Proceedings of SPIE Vol. 5070 Terahertz for Military and Security Applications, edited by R. Jennifer Hwu, Dwight L. Woolard, (SPIE, Bellingham, WA, July, 2003), page 38.
  • Shu-Zee A. Lo, D. Novotny, E. N. Grossman, and E. J. Heilweil, “Pulsed terahertz bi-directional reflection distribution function (BRDF) measurements of materials and obscurants,” in S.P.I.E Proceedings for Session #8022 entitled "Passive Millimeter-Wave Imaging Technology XIV," Orlando FL, April 25-29, 2011.

Lead Organizational Unit:

pml

Customers/Contributors/Collaborators:

Prof. Thomas Murphy, University of Maryland, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Contact

Photovoltaic Carrier Dynamics Measured by Time-Resolved Terahertz Spectroscopy:
Edwin Heilweil, Project Leader
301-975-2370 Telephone
301-869-7682 Facsimile

100 Bureau Drive, M/S 8443
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8443