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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S018395/1
Title: THEIA: fast super-resolution TeraHErtz mIcroscopy for nAtural sciences
Principal Investigator: Navarro-Cia, Dr M
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Mediwise Ltd
Department: School of Physics and Astronomy
Organisation: University of Birmingham
Scheme: New Investigator Award
Starts: 01 March 2019 Ends: 31 October 2020 Value (£): 254,614
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Instrumentation Eng. & Dev. RF & Microwave Technology
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
06 Dec 2018 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 6 and 7 December 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
THz microscopy lies at the interface between physics and electrical engineering, and it provides a platform for cutting-edge research and development in biology, chemistry, physics and engineering. By probing fundamentally different information about biomolecular structure and functional dynamics compared to infrared radiation and light, THz radiation promises to revolutionize spectroscopy and imaging for the life sciences. In addition, THz radiation has the advantage of being non-ionizing and very sensitive to polar substances, such as water, and provides label-free skin disease diagnosis and better image contrast for soft tissues than hazardous X-rays or optical imaging techniques.

Until recently though, THz sources and detectors were very cumbersome. Hence, the widespread adoption of THz technology, let alone THz microscopy, has lagged behind microwaves, infrared and optics. Another hurdle that has held THz microscopy back is its failure to accomplish resolution below the diffraction limit with near-real-time operation, which is a feature that its optical counterpart achieved few decades ago with fluorophores. Such super-resolution and fast acquisition time features are especially critical for the life sciences whose specimens (e.g., cells) have micrometer-dimensions and are typically in continuous motion in their biological environment.

The transformative THz microscope proposed in this research programme will explicitly address this problem and will achieve fast label-free super-resolution imaging not seen before at THz frequencies by combining two techniques from completely different realms: evanescent-wave illumination (used in optical microscopy and in optical fibre sensors) and synthetic-aperture collection (used in spaceborne remote sensing). To succeed in the implementation of the THz microscope, the project will have to:

(i) design and fabricate new high-performance optics based on metasurfaces since conventional lenses are lossy at THz frequencies, as well as being bulky.

(ii) develop efficient signal analysis and processing algorithms specific to the microscopy system to generate images with enhanced resolution at a rate that enables one to study the temporal evolution of biological samples.

(iii) design the system, integrate the hardware (THz source, high-performance optics, and THz camera) and software (control and image reconstruction algorithm) and calibrate the microscope to create a turn-key system.

The project will also (iv) benchmark the 0.3 THz microscope against other frequencies and imaging modalities to quantify its added value to the field of life sciences microscopy. This information will be crucial to engage with the life sciences community since THz technology is largely untapped outside the engineering and physical science communities.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.bham.ac.uk