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HELIOS Lab : Enabling Terahertz Research Across Ohio

Inside the The Ohio State University HELIOS Laboratory, assistant professor Kubilay Sertel cracks open a suitcase on the floor and retrieves a black metal object from inside.

“This is a Terahertz camera. The world’s first Terahertz camera,” he said. “This is how the HELIOS Lab came to be – with our research from five or six years ago, spinning out into a business, and then attracting the state of Ohio’s attention to support us.”

The imaging camera he developed for Traycer Diagnostic Systems has numerous applications in both medical and security realms. The device allows doctors to measure patient skin hydration levels in real time. It also provides for less invasive security screenings at airports, and helps pilots land safely in white-out or brown-out conditions. For consumers, the invention provides high-resolution subsurface imaging for packaging and quality control. The technology is even helping scientists detect specific molecules and gases in outer space.

Back in 2010, the Wright Center for Sensor Systems Engineering, an Ohio Third Frontier program, gave Ohio State $3 million to establish the Hyperspectral Engine Lab for Integrated Optical Systems, or HELIOS.

Today, Sertel said, the focus of HELIOS remains dedicated toward fostering and encouraging ongoing research in the relatively uncharted realms of the terahertz spectrum (a wavelength that lies in the gap between microwaves and infrared light).

Located on Kinnear Road in Columbus, HELIOS is part of the larger Ohio State ElectroScience Laboratory (ESL) complex, a major center-of-excellence in the university’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. ESL is one of the largest radio frequency and optics research laboratories in the world. Since 1942, its researchers have consistently maintained a national and international preeminence in electromagnetics.

Over the past five years, HELIOS has been utilizing Ohio’s resources to continually help academia and industry alike develop smaller, faster and lower-powered terahertz devices.

“We are ready and here for anyone who wants to do terahertz and millimeter wave characterizations. We have spectroscopy or imaging capabilities; any type of device or tissue characterization,” Niru Nahar said, HELIOS operational manager and Ohio State research assistant professor.

Watch a short video of Sertel and Nahar explaining the history and capabilities of the HELIOS Lab:

Sertel said the lab holds over $3 million in technical equipment, which industries and small businesses can utilize for terahertz and millimeter wave research applications that apply to imaging, spectroscopy, sensing, communications and integrated circuits.

“The idea is to have these in one place so small businesses that are developing sensors – particularly in the optical and high radio frequency range – can come and use the laboratory instrumentation at a fraction of the cost it would require for them to acquire this equipment themselves,” he said.

HELIOS research, Sertel said, remains dedicated to creating “the next-generation of electronics, with high speed transistors and integrated circuits.”

He said the technology is helping to open the door to future technological advancements in communication systems, on-chip antennas, terahertz frequency transistors, biomedical imaging, and new sensor development.

For more information, visit the HELIOS lab website at