UK Company set to transform electronics for security scanners and cancer detection
25 Nov 2010



A new UK company set to transform the use of terahertz electronics for applications in security imaging, telecommunications and cancer detection has won a prize in Research Councils UK (RCUK)




Press Release: 24 November 2010

A new UK company set to transform the use of terahertz electronics* for applications in security imaging, telecommunications and cancer detection won a prize in Research Councils UK (RCUK) Business Plan Competition 2010.

Teratech Components Ltd, a recent spinout from STFC, will use the £10,000 prize towards kick-starting the company's business to exploit the commercial applications of terahertz electronics - engaging with industry and new markets outside of the traditional space sector.

A Schottky Diode, developed by Teratech Components Ltd, is the fundamental component used for the detection of Terahertz radiation

Terahertz (THz) applications span the physical (security imaging), biological (cell formation) and medical (cancerous tumour detection) sciences with a growing interest in the application of THz frequencies to security imaging through clothing in airport scanners and to non-destructive pharmaceutical and manufacturing inspection through multilayered or opaque surfaces.

The unique properties of THz radiation also include high frequency radar to produce high resolution images of objects through cloud, fog and dust storms to support aircraft landing in harsh environments.

The high frequency THz band of the electromagnetic spectrum** is still largely unexplored and was originally developed for niche applications in astronomy and monitoring of the Earth's atmosphere. As the technology has matured however, and the costs reduced, new commercial applications are becoming viable.

The Teratech team is led by Byron Alderman from STFC. Byron said, "This is excellent news today and will give the company a real boost. Our vision is to transform the use of terahertz electronics technology and working towards the Business Plan Competition is helping us towards achieving this aim. The competition has involved working closely with business and industry to develop our skills in business planning. In the past the prize money awarded to winners of the RCUK Business Plan Competition has proved invaluable in helping companies grow their business and I know we'll put it to good use!"

A THz mixer component containing a Schottky diode developed by Teratech Components Ltd

Teratech was spun out from technology developed by the Millimetre Technology (MMT) group at RAL Space. The group have developed THz components over the last twenty years for use in the Earth observation and astronomy fields, and in the security sector.

Professor Dave Delpy, RCUK Impact Champion said: "It is vital to the future prosperity of the UK that research and business work together in partnership. The RCUK Business Plan Competition is just one of the current mechanisms that the Research Councils have to help researchers work with business and industry to gain the relevant skills to turn their work into successful commercial ventures. The five finalists in this year's Competition come from a variety of academic backgrounds and they should each be congratulated for their commitment over the last year, during the demanding process of turning their research into award winning business propositions."

The RCUK Business Plan Competition has been running for six years and has helped researchers work with business and industry to gain the appropriate skills to turn their work into successful business applications.

Notes to editors

Teratech Components won one of four runner-up prizes worth £10,000 each.

*The technology being exploited by Teratech Components Ltd depends on the fabrication of electronic devices that operate above 100 GHz, where traditional electronic circuits no-longer function. It is a generic device technology that can be used as both a detector and source of THz radiation, opening the potential for very high frequency communication systems and radars. The devices, which are called Schottky Diodes, operate at room temperature, rather than under cryogenic conditions like most competitor technologies, significantly simplifying system infrastructure and reducing cost.

** The electromagnetic spectrum covers radio waves to X-rays and includes visible light. THz is the region of this spectrum between microwaves and the infrared. Well known electronic devices, such as transistors, operate efficiently up to frequencies of around 100 GHz.


Please contact STFC's press office for images and captions.


Bekky Stredwick
Press Office
STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
Tel: +44 (0)1235 445 777
Mob: +44 (0)7825 861 436

Jane Wakefield
RCUK Press and Communications Manager
Tel: +44 (0)1793 444 592

Further Information

THz is non-ionising, and therefore safe to humans. It penetrates a wide variety of non-conducting materials including clothing, paper, plastics and ceramics, and can also penetrate fog and clouds, but is strongly absorbed by metal and water. The Earth's atmosphere is a strong absorber of terahertz radiation across most of the spectrum although there are narrow less absorbing window bands making it an ideal technique for observing the planet's climate.

Research Councils UK (RCUK)

RCUK (link opens in a new window) is the strategic partnership of the UK's seven Research Councils. We invest annually around £3 billion in research. Our focus is on excellence with impact. We nurture the highest quality research, as judged by international peer review providing the UK with a competitive advantage.

Global research requires we sustain a diversity of funding approaches, fostering international collaborations, and providing access to the best facilities and infrastructure, and locating skilled researchers in stimulating environments.

Our research achieves impact – the demonstrable contribution to society and the economy made by knowledge and skilled people. To deliver impact, researchers and businesses need to engage and collaborate with the public, business, government and charitable organisations.

The seven UK Research Councils are:

  • Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
  • Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
  • Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC)
  • Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
  • Medical Research Council (MRC)
  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
  • Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

About STFC

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