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Best of 2010: How Terahertz Waves Tear Apart DNA

A new model of the way the THz waves interact with DNA explains how the damage is done and why evidence has been so hard to gather

Although published in 2009, this post was hugely popular throughout 2010:

Great things are expected of terahertz waves, the radiation that fills the slot in the electromagnetic spectrum between microwaves and the infrared. Terahertz waves pass through non-conducting materials such as clothes , paper, wood and brick and so cameras sensitive to them can peer inside envelopes, into living rooms and “frisk” people at distance.

The way terahertz waves are absorbed and emitted can also be used to determine the chemical composition of a material. And even though they don’t travel far inside the body, there is great hope that the waves can be used to spot tumours near the surface of the skin.

With all that potential, it’s no wonder that research on terahertz waves has exploded in the last ten years or so.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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