Equipment that can detect anthrax in envelopes is being developed by scientists at the University of Leeds.
The technology could help in the detection of Anthrax
The device, which measures radiation given off by molecules, could also be used to locate explosives hidden in luggage, researchers say.
Their lab is pioneering research into the relatively unexplored terahertz band of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Professor Giles Davies said that terahertz technology opens up new possibilities for detection devices.
The research could also be applied to the identification of diseases, security scanning and even astronomy, he added.
Terahertz radiation can identify substances by detecting the unique way their molecules vibrate and rotate.
Its frequencies lie between infrared rays and microwave rays on the electromagnetic spectrum - an area which neither optical or electronic techniques have previously been able to explore.
Professor Davies and his team will use "broadband source" and "quantam cascade laser" technologies to explore the terahertz band.
"The terahertz region has steadfastly resisted the advances of scientists because the devices used above and below these frequencies operate in completely different ways," said Professor Davies.
"Now we have technologies we can use to explore the terahertz region of the spectrum," he added.