Xi-Cheng Zhang is a Chinese-American Physicist. His research is focused on the generation, detection, and applications of free-space THz beams with ultrafast optics. Zhang has received 29 US patents, authored and co-authored 24 books, 300 refereed papers cited more than 31 000 times (h-index above 78). He served as chairman of NATO Sensor and Electronics Technology Task Group and Chairman of NATO Exploratory Team.
Zhang is an internationally recognized scientist and leader in THz science and technology. Zhang’s contribution to the development of THz time-domain spectroscopy, together with other leading researchers, has altered this scientifically important, but historically inaccessible, spectroscopic region. Research on THz waves has the potential to trigger advances, including nondestructive testing, homeland security, and biomedical applications.
His group has proved that under intense pulsed laser excitation the very air that we breathe is capable of generation and detection of THz waves. The use of air, instead of crystals or antennas, as both the emitter and the sensor, has lead to the development of THz systems with unprecedented broad bandwidth and high peak electric field with application in imaging, linear and nonlinear material characterization. Moreover, using these techniques, remote generation and detection of THz waves is feasible, therefore one can envision standoff detection of threat or hazardous substances.
Zhang has been awarded numerous awards, including the National Science Foundation’s CAREER award, Research Corporation’s Cottrell Award, and China’s Outstanding Scholar Award. He is a Fellow of IEEE, the Optical Society of America, and was elected a Fellow of the American Physics Society.
What are some future opportunities for THz science?
Some industrial THz systems can be used for homeland security and quality control applications, whereas THz communication systems offer unprecedented bandwidth for secure, ultrahigh-definition wireless video. THz sensing systems are attractive for environmental studies and space science, and THz imaging medical systems can be used for diagnosing and treating certain cancers and other diseases. Thz/extreme ultraviolet table top systems can be used for dynamic imaging on the molecular level. A novel concept is combining THz photonic, electronic and plasmonic technologies.
Advice for students in learning, career, life?
I encourage students to set “blue sky” goals. Be ambitious; set your sights higher than you first think you may achieve. If you don’t try, you definitely will not reach the goal, but if you give your best effort, you will make progress and you may surprise yourself with what you really can achieve.