Terahertz radiation, formerly thought to be harmless to the human body due to its low energy and to have wider applications than X-rays, has been found to have side effects.
The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) announced on June 18 that a research team lead by Kim Pil-han, professor of the Graduate School of Nanoscience and Technology at KAIST, and Dr. Jung Young-wook from the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute discovered symptoms of infections on skin tissue of a test animal exposed to terahertz radiation.
As electromagnetic radiation in the range of 0.1 to 10THz, terahertz radiation is highly penetratable to the extent that it is possible to see the inside of an object like X-rays, owing to their longer wavelength than that of visible and infrared light. Hence, they are used in various areas such as security screening, next-gen wireless mobile communications, and medical imaging technology. Nevertheless, the effects of terahertz radiation on the human body have only rarely been examined.
After developing a high-power terahertz wave generator that can be used on animal bodies, the research team created a high resolution 3D laser scanning microscope. The team exposed a genetically-engineered mouse to high-power terahertz radiation for 30 minutes and observed the skin of the mouse with a 3D laser scanning microscope. They discovered that the number of infected cells increased more than six times after 6 hours of exposure.
It is the first time to find side effects of terahertz radiation exposure, which were widely acknowledged to have the potential to effectively treat skin diseases such as squamous cell carcinoma without damaging the human body.
The research findings were published online in the May 19 issue of Optics Express, a scientific journal published by the Optical Society of America.