With the increasing demands for remote spectroscopy in many fields ranging from homeland security to environmental monitoring, terahertz (THz) spectroscopy has drawn a significant amount of attention because of its capability to acquire chemical spectral signatures non-invasively. However, advanced THz remote sensing techniques are obstructed by quite a few factors, such as THz waves being strongly absorbed by water vapor in the ambient air, difficulty to generate intense broadband coherent THz source remotely, and hard to transmit THz waveform information remotely without losing the signal to noise ratio, etc. In this review, after introducing different THz air-photonics techniques to overcome the difficulties of THz remote sensing, we focus mainly on theoretical and experimental methods to improve THz generation and detection performance for the purpose of remote sensing through tailoring the generation and detection media, air-plasma.
For the THz generation part, auto-focusing ring-Airy beam was introduced to enhance the THz wave generation yield from two-color laser induced air plasma. By artificially modulated exotic wave packets, it is exhibited that abruptly auto-focusing beam induced air-plasma can give an up to 5.3-time-enhanced THz wave pulse energy compared to normal Gaussian beam induced plasma under the same conditions. At the same time, a red shift on the THz emission spectrum is also observed. A simulation using an interference model to qualitatively describe these behaviors has be developed.
For the THz detection part, the results of THz remote sensing at 30 m using THz-radiation-enhanced-emission-of-fluorescence (THz-REEF) technique are demonstrated, which greatly improved from the 10 m demonstration last reported. The THz-REEF technique in the counter-propagation geometry was explored, which is proved to be more practical for stand-off detections than co-propagation geometry. We found that in the counter-propagating geometry the maximum amplitude of the REEF signal is comparable to that in the co-propagating case, whereas the time resolved REEF trace significantly changes. By performing the study with different plasmas, we observed that in the counter-propagating geometry the shape of the REEF trace depends strongly on the plasma length and electron density. A new theoretical model suggesting that the densest volume of the plasma does not contribute to the fluorescence enhancement is proposed to reproduce the experimental measurements.
Our results further the understanding of the THz-plasma interaction and highlight the potential of THz-REEF technique in the plasma detection applications.