Sunday, May 13, 2012

Chip lets smartphones see through walls, clothes

Researchers at the University of Texas, Dallas have designed a chip that could give smartphones the ability to see through walls, clothes or other objects. This was achieved when the team led by Prof Kenneth O tuned a small, inexpensive microchip to discern a "terahertz" band of the electromagnetic spectrum. All objects emit radiation spanning a wide band in the electromagnetic spectrum. Radiation with frequencies in the terahertz frequency range (between microwave and infrared) have the peculiar ability to pass through clothing, paper, cardboard, wood, masonry, plastic and ceramics. It can also penetrate fog and clouds, but not metal or water. However, their low intensity makes it difficult to detect them, compared with the radiation within the visible range, for instance, which can be detected by our eyes. What Prof O and his team have done is to devise an inexpensive microhip made using Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) technology to detect radiation within the terahertz band of the electromagnetic spectrum. T-hertz signals coming from objects ordinarily hidden from view can be detected by the chip and they can be further processed into an image that would be displayed on the screen of the phone or similar device. "We've created approaches that open a previously untapped portion of the electromagnetic spectrum for consumer use," Professor O said, "There are all kinds of things you could be able to do that we just haven't yet thought about." (see

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