Researchers at UT Dallas have designed an imager chip
that could turn mobile phones into devices that can see
through walls, wood, plastics, paper and other objects.
The team's research created approaches that open a
previously untapped portion of the electromagnetic
spectrum for consumer use - the terahertz range. The
terahertz band of the electromagnetic spectrum falls
between microwave and infrared and has not been
accessible for most consumer devices.
Using the new approach, images can be created with
signals operating in the terahertz (THz) range without
having to use several lenses inside a device. This could
reduce overall size and cost.
The second advance that makes the findings applicable
for consumer devices is the technology used to create
the microchip. Chips manufactured using CMOS
(Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) technology
form the basis of many consumer electronic devices used
in daily life such as personal computers, smart phones,
high definition TV and game consoles.
"The combination of CMOS and terahertz means you could
put this chip and a transmitter on the back of a
cellphone, turning it into a device carried in your
pocket that can see through objects," explained Dr.
Kenneth O, professor of electrical engineering at UT
Dallas. Due to privacy concerns, Dr. O and his team are
focused on uses in the distance range of less than four
Consumer applications of such technology could range
from finding studs in walls to authentication of
important documents. Businesses could use it to detect
counterfeit money. Manufacturing companies could apply
it to process control. There are also more
communication channels available in terahertz than the
range currently used for wireless communication, so
information could be more rapidly shared at this
Terahertz can also be used for imaging to detect cancer
tumors, diagnosing disease through breath analysis, and
monitoring air toxicity.
The research was presented at the most recent
International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC).
The team will work next to build an entire working
imaging system based on the CMOS terahertz system.