Categories: Science
| On 1 week ago

Scientists invented a camera that can see through or around anything

By Aswin Kumar

Northwestern University engineers have developed a new high-resolution camera that can see around corners and through obstacles such as skin, fog, and a human skull.

The technique is known as synthetic wavelength holography, and it’s a new way that works by scattering light indirectly onto hidden objects, which then scatters again and returns to the camera. The scattered light signal is then reconstructed using an algorithm to reveal concealed objects. According to the researchers, the approach might potentially see fast-moving objects such as cars rushing around bends or the human heart pounding through a chest due to its great temporal resolution.

The challenges of photographing or visualizing a subject around a corner versus seeing an organ inside a human body may appear to be unrelated, but the team claims that they are closely related because both involve scattering media in which light hits an object and scatters in such a way that a direct image of the object is no longer visible.

Non-line-of-sight (NLoS) imaging is a new field of research that includes synthetic wavelength holography. The Northwestern researchers created a system that can quickly photograph full-field photographs of enormous areas with submillimeter precision.

“With this level of resolution, the computational camera could potentially image through the skin to see even the tiniest capillaries at work,” wrote Amanda Morris of Northwestern University.

While the team claims that medical imaging is the most obvious application for the technology, they also suggest that it may be used as an early-warning tool in-car navigation systems or for industrial inspection in tight places. The possibilities, according to the team, are “endless.”

Fig 1

In fig 1, the SWH method combines four critical attributes: In each case, a scattering surface or medium is employed to light the hidden objects indirectly and intercept light scattered by them. a) A narrow probing area permits flaws to be inspected in tight places, such as running aircraft engines. b) A wide angular FoV enables the measurement/detection of hidden objects without prior knowledge of their location, which is useful for navigating in low-light conditions. d) High spatial resolution enables the measurement of small structures, such as non-invasive brain vessel imaging through the skull. d) High temporal resolution enables imaging of moving objects, such as heart arrhythmia, via the chest. SWH distinguishes itself from the present state of the art by combining these qualities in a single method to NLoS imaging.

“Our technology will usher in a new wave of imaging capabilities,” says Florian Willomitzer, a professor at the McCormick School of Engineering and the study’s first author.

“Our current sensor prototypes use visible or infrared light, but the principle is universal and could be extended to other wavelengths. For example, the same method could be applied to radio waves for space exploration or underwater acoustic imaging. It can be applied to many areas, and we have only scratched the surface,” he further added.

The full detailed breakdown and designs will be found on  Northwestern University’s website as well as on the full research paper published on Nature.

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Aswin Kumar

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