How does terahertz body scanner work?

The terahertz body scanners uncover concealed things, but how does a terahertz scanner actually do that?

The terahertz body scanner is a piece of equipment that can be found at many airports nowadays. Its primary functions are to boost passenger safety and expedite screening procedures. These body scanners reveal concealed items on our bodies, such as guns or explosives, by using terahertz radiation as a diagnostic tool. However, how exactly does the terahertz body scanner technology function?

Terahertz body scanners have the advantage of being able to identify liquids and powders as well as metals as compared to traditional metal detectors. This can result in speedier security checks since it eliminates the need to pat individuals down to a significant degree. Terahertz scanners are now utilized at many airports around Europe and North America. Governments sign framework agreements for the delivery of hundreds of terahertz scanners. These scanners are primarily utilized for the screening of passengers, but they can also be utilized at other security checkpoints.

It utilizes the radiation emitting from the body

Terahertz radiation is something that occurs relatively naturally; it is a part of the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation and has a frequency that falls somewhere between that of infrared radiation and microwaves. In addition to the thermal radiation that is emitted from the surface of our skin, our bodies also release minute quantities of terahertz radiation.

However, we are often subjected to an extra dose of terahertz radiation when we go through body scanners at airports. These waves are partly reflected by our bodies. The measurements are streamlined, and so the clarity of the image is improved. “Active systems” are a kind of scanner that operates according to this fundamental premise.

The picture shows how does terahertz body scanner works.
(Credit: W. Commons/OpticsGuru2018)

Hidden items that are concealed under our clothing reflect a greater amount of radiation because their density for terahertz rays differs from that of human tissue. They produce discernible shadows in the pictures produced by the detector. Therefore, terahertz scanners can identify not just things made of metal, but also those made of liquids or powders.

However, there are other scanners that measure only the radiation that is released by the human body itself. These scanners are used for various purposes. This is enough, for instance, to determine whether or not there are people in a vehicle that has its door closed. These kinds of systems are known as “passive systems.”

Can terahertz body scanner see inside you?

On the other hand, the terahertz detectors are unable to see through our clothes. This is because their radiation can very effortlessly pass through materials such as fabrics, plastic, or paper, and that it is absorbed nearly none at all.

Terahertz radiation is comparable to X-rays in this regard, but, in contrast to X-rays, it does not seem to have any adverse effects on the human body. This is because they have a relatively low intensity, and as a result, they do not create ionization. They are unable to dislodge electrons from atoms or molecules in our bodies, and therefore, they do not do any harm to the genetic information or the cells themselves.

What does terahertz body scanner reveal?

the picture shows what terahertz body scanner shows

In reality, the terahertz body scanners are not capable of producing detailed images of human bodies, although in theory they should be able to. It is on purpose that the systems are set up to only display humans in the form of pictograms. Therefore, you do not need to be concerned about the possibility of security employees seeing private parts of your body shown on the screen.

Things are handled differently when it comes to items that we conceal on or inside our bodies. The monitor of the terahertz body scanner shows a variety of colored marks in these locations. Because it is often impossible to determine precisely what the item is based just on these indications, the employees in charge of security will re-scan you if this occurs.

On the other hand, some developed countries offer an option to decline being scanned by a terahertz body scanner or any other body scanners. In such an event, the personnel will inspect the person just as they always have in the past. In certain other nations, on the other hand, it may not always be feasible to decline the body scan.

Terahertz body scanners are no longer only used to inspect individuals, though. They are also used in the process of checking sealed items, such as mail or parcels. The terahertz scanner examines the mail to determine whether or not it includes any kind of explosives or narcotics.

By Bertie Atkinson

Bertie Atkinson is a history writer at Malevus. He writes about diverse subjects in history, from ancient civilizations to world wars. In his free time, he enjoys reading, watching Netflix, and playing chess.