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Full-Body Airport Scanners Downsizing For Doctors/Dentists 221

An anonymous reader writes "Cheap handheld terahertz scanners that do the same thing as those big bulky full-body scanners at the airport could be in your doctor's and dentist's office soon. The Semiconductor Research Corp. has successfully sponsored chip maker Texas Instruments in making cheap CMOS chips that do the same thing as those refrigerator sized full-body scanners at the airport. The resulting handheld versions can be tuned to look inside your teeth in the dentist chair and under you skin at the doctor's office. The best part is that terahertz rays are completely safe, unlike the X-rays used today by dentists and doctors which can cause cancer. Count me in!"
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Full-Body Airport Scanners Downsizing For Doctors/Dentists

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  • Re:"completely safe" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Monday July 02, 2012 @11:17PM (#40523709)

    There was never a time when X-Rays were considered completely safe. Roentgen and Thompson both issued warnings regarding overexposure. Within a year of their discovery reports of injuries started appearing. []

  • by CelticWhisper ( 601755 ) <> on Monday July 02, 2012 @11:44PM (#40523819)

    Major correction: TSA screeners, despite having fake tin badges and cop-a-like uniforms, are NOT law-enforcement officers and have absolutely zero authority to do anything other than say "Sorry, you can't enter the airport terminal today, try again tomorrow." That's it. They cannot make arrests, they cannot detain you, they are forbidden from carrying firearms on the job and some have actually been arrested themselves for using their TSA uniforms and toy badges to impersonate real law officers.

    I don't fault you for thinking they're LEOs - they've gone to great lengths to dupe people into believing that (reference the STRIP Act that would undo this) and are meeting with a disturbing level of success - but I do try to counter these misconceptions when I see them.

  • Medical Utility? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by izomiac ( 815208 ) on Monday July 02, 2012 @11:50PM (#40523853) Homepage
    I'm a little curious about the medical uses for the technology. Terahertz EM radiation should have similar wavelengths to Ultrasound, which only penetrates a few inches and lacks resolution. It's very useful [], don't get me wrong, but no replacement for X-rays [], CT [], or MRI [] (click for images of kidney stones using each modality). Plus, ultrasound is becoming even less reliable due to the obesity epidemic, as it can't penetrate a foot of fat very well. Per Wikipedia THz can penetrate low-water tissue several millimeters, which is similar to visible light seen by the unaided eye.

    Dermatologists and Dentists may find it useful, but I'm having trouble seeing the application into other medical fields. (Someone can chime in if there's something, I haven't been keeping up on it.) IMHO, it's premature to consider installing these in the clinic. Before that happens there needs to be some unique and significant benefit, which outweighs the risks, and is cost effective. Until then, keep it in the research labs where portability and miniaturization is less of an issue. We don't need technology in the clinic for technology's sake, it just drives up costs and increases wait times.
  • Hand-held CT scanner (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @02:03AM (#40524505) Homepage

    The next step, once there's terahertz scanning capability in a hand-held device, is to add an accurate short-range location system to the device. Then it becomes possible to do most of the job of a CT scanner, building up a 3D image, with a hand-held device and a lot of compute power. This will be a big win for medicine.

    It might be sufficient to put a 6-axis IMU chip in the device and use SLAM to correct for cumulative error. Then you could reference to the body being scanned, not the world coordinate system, and get clean scans even if the patient moves a little.

    A useful marketing strategy would be to deploy this first for veterinarians. This avoids many of the regulatory issues.

  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) ( 193358 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @02:27AM (#40524567) Homepage Journal

    Some industrial and mechanical applications might also be good early adopters. No "medical device" overhead to deal with, and a good-sized market.

  • Incorrect (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 @04:02AM (#40524883)
    "The radiation is too high-frequency to excite any of the electrons orbiting the atoms in the human body (which is how UV causes damage)"

    You meant too LOW frequency , as terahertz is about order of magnitude of micrometer of wavelength : it is in the infrared part of the spectra (far or near depending on how many THz we are speaking of). In fact frequency is going from very low (VHF->FIF->NIF->Visible) to very high (Blue->UV->X->Gamma). Higher frequency=High energy is bad as it can easily knock electron off orbits. Low Frequency=Low Energy less dangerous, to even inactive on our body. Which is the invert with wavelength (short wave =very dangerous , very long wave think radio BHV etc harmless). Then there is also the question of quantity, but as a rule of thumb it is enough.

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