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UMass Lowell Lab Snags $23M Grant

Bob Giles
Physics Department Chairman Robert Giles at UMass Lowell's Submillimeter-Wave Technology laboratory recently. The lab has received a $23M grant from the Army, one of the largest grants in the university's history.

Lowell Sun
By Jennifer Myers

LOWELL -- UMass Lowell's Submillimeter-Wave Technology Laboratory has received a $23 million infusion from the Army, one of the biggest grants in the university's history. 

The lab, run by Physics Department Chairman Robert Giles, develops terahertz-frequency-measurement systems that assist the military in defining objects detected by radar, allowing strategists and soldiers to tell exactly what types of vehicles are on or near the battlefield. 

Terahertz, commonly called T-ray, refers to electromagnetic radiation that falls between microwave and infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. The radiation bounces off, or gets absorbed into, objects, much like visible light. It is possible to determine the type of object detected on radar by measuring how much light goes through or is reflected. 

"We have been stringing multiyear grants together since 1989," said Giles, who began working in the lab under founder Jerry Waldman in 1982. "It is the kind of steady support you can build a good program on because you can count on it." 

In 2006, the Department of Defense awarded the program a $27 million five-year grant. 

"This latest grant is a continuation of our program to assist the government in acquiring and analyzing surveillance-radar imagery," Giles said. "It is a testament to and recognition of our high level of expertise in the field. Our research is focused on using terahertz-frequency sources and receivers to scale the Army's millimeter-wave and microwave airborne-radar systems." 

The technology can also be used to give doctors a more precise tool to determine the differences between healthy and cancerous tissue. 

T-rays can tell the difference between the two tissues because cancerous tissues hold more water, which would be shown. 

"In the long term, the technology will allow surgeons to see exactly what they are cutting," Giles said. "Today, sometimes the surgeon takes too much, or not enough, and has to go back to it. This technology will make the procedure more precise."