books just by looking at the covers
at the University of Leeds may soon be reading books without
opening the covers using terahertz spectroscopy
a form of electromagnetic imaging.
technique is sensitive enough to 'see' the writing on
each page within a book, limiting unnecessary handling
of historical manuscripts while making their contents
available to scholars and the wider public.
£3m grant from the joint research councils will enable
electrical engineers at Leeds and their collaborators
at the University of Cambridge to exploit the potential
uses of this new technology.
reaching vision Robert Miles
Dr Robert Miles explains: "Until now we've been concentrating
on the medical applications of the technology. Unlike
X-rays, terahertz waves are not harmful, so there are
no exposure worries for practitioners or patients.
terahertz imaging is senstive enough to show the chemical
breakdown of the object being studied. Terahertz waves
make molecules vibrate, and the frequency of the vibration
can tell you the chemicals present, and if there are chemical
reactions taking place. This greatly increases the applications
of the technology."
well as looking at historical documents, the researchers
will be working with York Archaeological Trust taking
images of paintings and ceramics. They will discover what
lies beneath the outer painting or glaze, and identify
the substances involved, providing important information
on the creation of the artefact and the technologies used
by its maker.
Miles will also be looking at applications of the technique
for testing the composition of foodstuffs, with Leeds
food scientist Eric Dickinson, and for analysing the wear
and tear on fibres mainly in industrial use
with Leeds textiles researcher Stephen Russell.
Miles: "Terahertz is safer and more practical than many
other imaging techniques, especially if we are able to
develop hand-held imaging units."
project is one of the first initiatives funded by the
government's new basic technology research programme,
supporting fundamental new technology with high impact
and wide-reaching benefits.
University press release and the
research councils press release on the basic technology