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Will future mobile devices see through walls?

Will future mobile devices see through walls?

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Spectrum research could allow phones to see through objects including walls, wood and plastic.

Spectrum research could allow phones to see through objects including walls, wood and plastic, the Science Daily reports.

Possessing X-ray vision and being able to see through any physical object may seem the stuff of dreams and comic books, but electronic engineers at UT Dallas may beg to differ. The researchers have designed an imager chip that taps into spectrum and microchip technology; offering the future potential for mobile devices to be able to 'see' through physical objects -- including walls, wood, paper and plastic.

Energy wavelengths are characterized by the electromagnetic spectrum, which we harness in different ways. Low frequencies are used for AM and FM radios, microwaves are used for mobile phones, infrared radiation is harnessed for night-vision devices, and ultraviolet light is able to break chemical bonds or detect sun damage.

However, the terahertz band on the spectrum, also known as T-rays, is rarely used in consumer devices. The THz band is a hybrid of microwave and infrared wavelengths, making it difficult to harness commercially.

"We've 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 UT Dallas and director of the Texas Analog Center of Excellence.

By combining an unused range of electromagnetic spectrum and the latest microchip technology, the team have managed to create images with signals produced in the THz range using only one lens -- keeping the commercial cost as low as possible.

The researchers combined the THz range with chips produced using CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) -- often found in consumer products -- and made the technology complementary to mobile devices. Dr. O said:

"CMOS is affordable and can be used to make lots of chips. 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."

Before the general public begin to feel concern over someone flashing their phone and seeing what's underneath their clothes in the future, the team have decided to focus on distances of less than four inches to alleviate such privacy worries.

The application of this technology to mobile devices is wide-ranging. For example, it could be used to authenticate documents including passports and IDs, and businesses could use mobile devices to detect counterfeit money more effectively.

The research was supported by the Center for Circuit & System Solutions and performed at the TxACE laboratory at UT Dallas. The team plan to build an entire working model of this system based on the combination of CMOS chips and terahertz technology.

(via Science Daily)

Image credit: Mr.T/Flickr

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Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure