A team of researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas has designed an imager chip which could allow mobile phone-like gadgets see though walls, plastics, paper and other objects.
The technology is categorised into two scientific advances which involves tapping into an unused range in the electromagnetic spectrum and a new microchip technology. "We have created approaches that open a previously untapped portion of the electromagnetic spectrum for consumer use and life-saving medical applications," said Dr Kenneth O, professor of electrical engineering at US Dallas and director of the Texas Analog Center of Excellence.
The electromagnetic spectrum characterises wavelengths of energy. But the invention depends on terahertz which has been previously not accessible by consumer devices. The band lying between microwave and infrared rays lets devices go through objects.
The invention depends on the usage of terahertz (THz) range which helps images to be created with signals without using lenses in the device. Thereby, it will minimise the size and the cost. Secondly, the chips are manufactured using complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) which is an essential element in electronic gadgets such as PCs, smartphones and gaming consoles.
"The combination of CMOS and terahertz means you could put this chip and a transmitter on the back of a cell phone, turning it into a device carried in your pocket that can see through objects," said Dr O. But due to certain privacy concerns, Dr O and his team are focusing on a distance range of less than four inches.
The technology could be used by businesses to detect fake money and manufacturers could use it in process control. Since, terahertz includes a wide range of communication channels, it could be used in sharing of information rapidly. Besides, terahertz could be reportedly used for imaging to detect cancer tumours and diagnose disease through breath analysis. "There are all kinds of things you could be able to do that we just haven't yet thought about," said Dr O.
The team will be next working on building a complete imaging system based on the CMOS terahertz system.