Modeling terahertz heating effects on water

Torben T.L. Kristensen, Withawat Withayachumnankul, Peter Uhd Jepsen, Derek Abbott

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We apply Kirchhoff’s heat equation to model the influence of a CW terahertz beam on a sample of water, which is assumed to be static. We develop a generalized model, which easily can be applied to other liquids and solids by changing the material constants. If the terahertz light source is focused down to a spot with a diameter of 0.5 mm, we find that the steadystate temperature increase per milliwatt of transmitted power is 1.8◦C/mW. A quantum cascade laser can produce a CW beam in the order of several milliwatts and this motivates the need to estimate the effect of beam power on the sample temperature. For THz time domain systems, we indicate how to use our model as a worst-case approximation based on the beam average power. It turns out that THz pulses created from photoconductive antennas give a negligible increase in temperature. As biotissue contains a high water content, this leads to a discussion of worst-case predictions for THz heating of the human body in order to motivate future detailed study. An open source Matlab implementation of our model is freely available for at
Original languageEnglish
JournalOptics Express
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)4727-4739
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

This paper was published in Optics Express and is made available as an electronic reprint with the permission of OSA. The paper can be found at the following URL on the OSA website: Systematic or multiple reproduction or distribution to multiple locations via electronic or other means is prohibited and is subject to penalties under law.


  • Infrared, far
  • Spectroscopy
  • Laser safety and eye protection
  • Terahertz


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