Thursday, April 19, 2012

Will Cellphones Be Able to See Through Walls? New Research Says Yes

It looks like Superman’s X-Ray vision might not just be for Superman anymore.

Thanks to new research coming out of the University of Texas at Dallas, we may be able to channel one of Clark Kent’s famed superpowers by using our cellphones to see through walls.

A team at the University of Texas at Dallas, led by Professor of Electrical Engineering Dr. Kenneth O, has tapped into two significant scientific advances that could open up this new technology. The first is an unused range in the electromagnetic spectrum, and the second is a new kind of consumer-grade microchip.

The electromagnetic spectrum characterizes wavelengths of energy and measures all ranges of light. Dr. O’s research is using the terahertz band, which has previously been inaccessible for most consumer devices. The band lies between microwave and infrared rays and can allow devices to “penetrate” through objects in a way similar to X-rays.

When signals on the terahertz band travel from your phone, they’ll bounce back — and that’s when the microchip comes in. The chips are manufactured using CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) technology, which is the basis of most of the electronic devices around you. A censor in the chip will pick up terahertz signals and then images can be created.

If terahertz-band signals can create images with fewer lenses — which would be the case with this technology — that means less money for lenses and a smaller camera. By using a CMOS sensor, the cost becomes even cheaper.

“CMOS is affordable and can be used to make lots of chips,” said Dr. O. “The combination of CMOS and terahertz means you could put this chip and receiver on the back of a cellphone, turning it into a device carried in your pocket that can see through objects.”

The technology goes beyond seeing through walls or other kinds of objects. In medicine, for example, there’s potential for it to be used in place of X-Rays. Businesses could also use it to detect counterfeit money.

And just in case you’re worried about spies using their phones to see what you’re up to far away, don’t fret — the researchers are fully aware of privacy concerns. That’s why Dr. O and his team are only focused on using their technology within a distance range of four inches.

What do you think of this new technology? Would you want to use your cellphone to see through walls? Let us know in the comments.

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