PurposeTerahertz (THz) medical imaging is a promising noninvasive technique for monitoring the skin’s conditions, early detection of the human skin cancer, and recovery from burns and wounds. It can be applied for visualization of the healing process directly through clinical dressings and restorative ointments, minimizing the frequency of dressing changes. The THz imaging technique is cost effective, as compared to the magnetic resonance method. Our aim was to develop an approach capable of providing better image resolution than the commercially available THz imaging cameras.ApproachThe terahertz-to-infrared (THz-to-IR) converters can visualize the human skin cancer by converting the latter’s specific contrast patterns recognizable in THz radiation range into IR patterns, detectable by a standard IR imaging camera. At the core of suggested THz-to-IR converters are flat matrices transparent both in the THz range to be visualized and in the operating range of the IR camera, these matrices contain embedded metal nanoparticles (NPs), which, when irradiated with THz rays, convert the energy of THz photons into heat and become nanosources of IR radiation detectable by an IR camera.ResultsThe ways of creating the simplest converter, as well as a more complex converter with wider capabilities, are considered. The first converter is a gelatin matrix with gold 8.5-nm diameter NPs, and the second is a polystyrene matrix with 2-nm diameter NPs from copper–nickel MONEL® alloy 404.ConclusionsAn approach with a THz-to-IR converter equipped with an IR camera is promising in that it could provide a better image of oncological pathology than the commercially available THz imaging cameras do.
Prospects for the development of devices for visualizing terahertz (THz) radiation sources can be associated with the use of the results of old studies (1965–1978) on the absorption of THz radiation by metal nanoparticles. This “renaissance” demonstrates that metallic nanoparticles can be used as nanotransducers of invisible THz radiation to infrared (IR) radiation detectable by a commercial IR camera. The investigated THz-to-IR converters are matrices that are transparent both in the THz radiation range to be visualized and in the operating range of the IR camera; matrices contain embedded metal nanoparticles. The latter, when irradiated with THz rays, convert the energy of THz photons into heat and become nanosources of IR radiation for the IR camera. In metal nanoparticles, the mechanisms of absorption of THz radiation and its conversion into heat are realized through dissipation of the energy of THz photons due to multiple scattering of electrons, as well as because of excitation of two types of phonons (transverse and longitudinal ones). The conversion of THz energy into the energy of transverse phonons occurs directly, while dissipation and excitation of longitudinal phonons occurs indirectly, through the excitation of Fermi electrons. Polyvinylchloride (PVC) was chosen as the matrix material, and gold nanoparticles were chosen as nanoparticles-fillers.