If you’re being generous, one could say your smartphone already grants some version of comic book superpowers. The mobile browser lets your feign omniscience at will; email-in-your-pocket lets you be everywhere at once. Scientists at the University of Texas at would like the add X-ray vision to that list.
As the British tech site The Inquirer reports, electrical engineering professor Dr. Kenneth O and his team developed an imager chip that could let your smartphone see through walls . . . and wood and plastics and paper and more.
The University’s news site offers some background on how the technology works:
The electromagnetic spectrum characterizes wavelengths of energy. For example, radio waves for AM and FM signals, or microwaves used for cell phones or the infrared wavelength that makes night vision devices possible.
But the terahertz band of the electromagnetic spectrum, one of the wavelength ranges that falls between microwave and infrared, has not been accessible for most consumer devices.
Dr. O’s team developed a chip using Complementary Metal-Oxid Semiconductor (CMOS) technology that can detect frequencies in that terahertz band of the electromagnetic spectrum. And because CMOS chips already form the basis of devices like PCs, HDTVs, smartphones and game consoles, their invention is applicable for consumer devices.
“CMOS is affordable and can be used to make lots of chips,” Dr. O said. “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.” Due to privacy concerns, Dr. O and his team are focused on uses in the distance range of less than four inches.