Last Friday at the chemistry seminar a scientist named Brian J. Drouin came to speak about THZ spectroscopy at JPL (terahertz spectroscopy at Jet Propulsion Laboratory California Institute of Technology). He develops new technologies to enhance the measurements of various molecules in the atmosphere and in interstellar space. In space for example carbon dioxide and methane absorb light so the human eye doesn’t see all of the signals. That is, we only see bright lights but much more is going on in the far infrared spectrum; after stars form planets form, and Dr. Drouin ascertains that far infrared spectrums can enable such observations and collection of data.
There are about 150 identified chemicals in interstellar space, and these technological tools could provide scientists with easier to read data by enhancing the signals on the emission spectra, ultimately aiding in the discovery of more chemicals in space. In earth science the spectrometers being developed can help to analyze with increasing accuracy and in more detail the human effects on stratospheric ozone and the chemical cycles of ozone. Planet Earth is a warm black body that needs to be able to emit heat. Current techniques do not facilitate the viewing of water from up in space, but image FIT (far infrared) can show how much heat is emitted out of Earth, so for example polar regions would be expected to show high levels of heat. This may be a way to measure global warming because less heat emitted from the Earth could be an indicator of an increase in global warming. The instruments can also sense small changes of CO2 globally.
At present one challenge is to make the spectrometer smaller so it can be more travel friendly. Dr. Drouin talked briefly about his spectrometer, called the frequency multiplication sub millimeter spectrometer that goes from two to 90 wavenumbers, approximately two orders less frequency than IR spectroscopy. He also discussed some things of which I had a hard time following, but overall the presentation was informative.