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Terahertz, the new answer to terrorism.

Tony Kurdzuk/The Star--LedgerJohn Federici, Distinguished Professor of Physics, poses with a Terahertz Interferometric Imaging Array in his lab at NJIT. The array uses terahertz rays to see through clothing and containers to detect concealed objects in real time. As the technology is improved Federici says it can be used in defense against suicide bombers and other terrorist activities.

Newark, U.S.- On this particular day at NJIT (New Jersey Science and Technology University), the focus of one of the top technological minds in the country is on cork.

It is a single cork, from Portugal, where 320 million pounds of bottle stoppers are produced every year. The billion-dollar cork industry is in trouble from a chemical that ruins the taste of wine. That is why physicist John Federici is bombarding the cork with terahertz rays, which can detect minute traces of the chemical.

But to Federici and other researchers at NJIT, these X-ray-like waves also may offer a first line of defense against suicide bombers and biological terrorists.

Bad corks, terrorism, natural disasters — it is all one to the scientists at NJIT, one of the top homeland security research universities in the country, where $100 million a year in anti-terrorism research translates into products with a vast range of applications.

Since 2004, when the Newark-based university was designated as the site of the New Jersey Homeland Security Technology Systems Center, researchers have applied an “all-hazards” approach to making life in the U.S. a little safer.

“High-tech, low-tech, we can’t afford to overlook any possibility in dealing with mass casualty events,” said center director Donald Sebastian. “You need multiple methods of detection and response. Terrorism comes in many forms; you have to see, smell, taste and analyze everything.”

NJIT has developed a multisystem approach that includes not only advanced detection but communications software that can warn the good guys when the bad guys are up to something.

There are the terahertz, or THz, rays that can leap from detecting bad corks to identifying people who are attempting to smuggle explosives or smallpox into a crowded room. And pattern recognition programs, equally capable of detecting someone lying to immigration officers, buying unusual amounts of suspicious chemicals or casing cars in a mall parking lot.

The research ranges from software for tracing the phone- and internet-usage patterns of home-grown terrorists — which recently helped police track down Faisal Shahzad, charged as the would-be Times Square bomber — to massive blimps designed to hover 12 miles above the Earth, sending back detailed scans of grids covering 500,000 square miles.

“Just because the most recent attacks like the Dec. 25 plane incident or the Times Square car bomber have been primitive and unsuccessful doesn’t mean there aren’t serious, sophisticated enemies probing our weaknesses every day,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-8th Dist.), who last week introduced the bipartisan Weapons of Mass Destruction Prevention and Preparedness Act.

“Intelligence reports predict a significant threat of biological attack on the U.S. by 2013, and we must be prepared,” said Pascrell, a member of the House’s Homeland Security Committee. “The center at NJIT is key to developing a homeland security technology that will help us predict who will attack, what kind of attack, how we prepare, how we respond and how we recover.”

Pascrell helped funnel federal homeland security funding to NJIT. Added to military and National Science Foundation grants over the past five years, the funding placed the New Jersey Institute of Technology in the top 10 engineering universities in the nation, Sebastian said.

About the practical uses of the therahertz,…READ MORE HERE

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