These Devices May Help People See The ‘Invisible’

Super vision could soon be possible!

These Devices May Help People See The ‘Invisible’ | Super vision could soon be possible!

Superhero comics and movies are super popular! People love hearing inspirational stories about heroes who use unique abilities to save cities from the grips of dastardly villains. 

One of the best parts of the superhero’s story is the discovery of the superpower and the superhero’s attempt to learn to control and leverage these abilities.

Superheroes can be distinguished by a number of superpowers, like mind-reading abilities, indestructibility, or flight.Some superheroes even have x-ray vision. X-ray vision, the ability to see through and inside objects, only exists in the supernatural realm. But every day, researchers are bringing us closer to making this fantastic power a real world thing.

Real life x-ray vision?
The University of Texas at Dallas’s News Center reports that university researchers have invented a “terahertz imager microchip” that can find objects and reproduce pixelated images of them, through barriers like smoke, snow, dust, and fog.

Dr. Kenneth K.O, the Texas Instruments Distinguished University Chair at the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science and an electrical and computer engineering professor, explained the function of the new device, “The technology allows you to see in vision-impaired environments. In industrial settings, for example, devices using the microchips could help with packaging inspections for manufacturing process control, monitoring moisture content or seeing through steam. If you are a firefighter, it could help you see through smoke and fire.”

How does the device work? It’s similar to radar; except that it uses radiation beams at the terahertz frequency on the spectrum. Where ordinary light cannot penetrate, these microwaves beams can.

The terahertz beams bounce off objects within a 20 meter range and the reflected beams are picked up by the microchip and used to detect objects beyond the smokescreen.

Small, energy efficient, and affordable
Incidentally, UT Dallas isn’t the only lab exploring this technology and its possible applications. Tech Crunch reports that in March of 2022, MIT unveiled a similar terahertz radar chip.

Associate Professor Rounan Han, who is heading the project, claims that the MIT team is one of the first to combine a superconductor chip with a terahertz imager, making the device smaller and lower power than standalone terahertz imagers not connected to chips.

He sees potential for the reflectarry, as the MIT team calls their device, to be used in the military, for self driving cars and drones, and even in airport security.  The use of the terahertz frequency is key to commercializing the technology because this frequency is similar to x-rays but much less harmful.

University of Texas at Dallas’s News Center quotes Dr Wooyeoil Choi, an Oklahoma State University assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, who previously worked on the project about how integrating the chip and imager is a game changer, “The key thing about the terahertz imager is making the pixels small and low power. You need to integrate a transmitter, receiver and antenna in such a small area”

Dr. Kenneth K. O elaborates, “Another breakthrough result enabled through innovations that overcame fundamental active-gain limits of CMOS is that this imaging technology consumes more than 100 times less power than the phased arrays currently being investigated for the same imaging applications. This and the use of CMOS make consumer applications of this technology possible.”

With potential x-ray vision devices in cars, airports and firefighter helmets, the world of tomorrow could be stranger, and more super, than fantasy.

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