A doctoral student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) has won the
2011 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for developing a new technique for detecting
hidden explosives, chemicals, and other dangerous materials from a safe
Benjamin Clough, a student in the department of Electrical Computer, and Systems Engineering at RPI, found a way to use sound waves to increase the effective distance of terahertz spectroscopy from a few feet to several meters, so that first responders, police, military personnel, chemical plant employees and others can detect unsafe materials from a safer distance.
Benjamin Clough, winner of the 2011 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for most promising invention: image credit: Rensselaer/Kris Qua
Prior to Clough's discovery, one of the fundamental limitations of remote terahertz spectroscopy was its effectiveness only in short distances, because natural moisture in the air absorbs terahertz waves, weakening their signals. The terahertz signals emitted by materials are distinctive, which is why the method of detection is so effective. Each material leaves its own 'fingerprint.'
Clough's work incorporated a sensitive microphone that can detect terahertz from the acoustic waves emitted by the materials. The audio information can be converted to digital data and be instantly checked against a library of known terahertz fingerprints to determine the chemical composition of the material.
The Lemelson-MIT Program celebrates outstanding innovators and inspires young
people to pursue creative lives and careers through invention. Clough wins $30,000 for his patent pending invention.
source: RPI News