Saturday, May 5, 2012

UT Dallas is Working on X-Ray Capabilities for Cell Phones

This is a guest post by Sarah Rexman.

That’s right, kids soon your phones will be able to see through stuff if the fine folks at the University of Texas at Dallas have their way. This tech uses the terahertz bandwidth, which is a neat little bandwidth that resides somewhere between microwave and infrared on the electromagnetic spectrum. Now, terahertz waves aren’t the only things needed to achieve “transparency” you also need metamaterials. Metamaterials are those fun spectrum of materials that are specially engineered to do things that aren’t exactly found in nature (thanks Wikipedia for that really vague definition); HowStuffWorks defines it as artificial type of matter that behaves differently from other matter (apparently not much better, but that’s what happens when you go off of a Google Search result list). Don’t worry girls UT @ Dallas has you in mind, their working on this tech to only be operable at a maximum distance of 4 inches, so that means this tech will become your best friend for finding those pesky studs in your wall so next time you need to hang that picture up UT has your back. They do also state that this tech could be rather useful for detecting counterfeit documents and money. 

The Approach:
The benefit of this tech is that it does away with the need of multiple lenses which cuts down on the space needed for the technology. They even theorize that this tech can easily fit on the same chip as a CMOS sensor chip making it easy to incorporate in current smart phone form factor. The fact that it can be incorporated on the same chip as CMOS means that it won’t inflate the cost to a level out of normal consumers reach.
The Benefits:
I've stated a few already from finding studs and detecting legitimacy in paper based objects, and apparently there are more. The most intriguing feature is having the ability to detect if a tumor is benign or malignant.  You can also use this wavelength to analyze your breath for disease and the air around you to make sure that it’s safe to breathe, and so much more according to Dr. O that the students weren’t creative enough to think of but you as a consumer might be able to come up with. I can think of one; creative photography, you know like those featured in “The Ring”. I guess you’d need macro turned on given the 4 inch limit so really just postage stamps and maybe a leaf. You could theoretically radiate an ant with this tech and get a great shot of its insides at the same time. The site doesn’t really give many examples which leads me to believe that this technology hasn’t made past the theory stage and has yet to make it in the practice phase, so when they actually try to implement their theories they’ll have a better grasp on what it can and can’t do hence the vagueness to its potential uses. The technology and discovery itself is rather new too. We have only just recently started playing around with the Terahertz range and using it to see through objects, plus it (at this stage) is still rather weak and can’t really see well through stuff thicker than a piece of paper. Scientists are working on making a wavelength emitter that’s strong enough to be useful.
Here’s a visual representation of the terahertz range:
Image Credit: UT @ Dallas
About the Author
Sarah Rexman is the main researcher and writer for Her most recent accomplishment includes graduating from Florida State, with a master’s degree in environmental science.  Her main focus for the site involves answering questions like, what are bed bugs? She also shows people where they can find commercial pest control in their area.