Camera sees through objects to detect cancer and defects in buildings

How one researcher created a portable scanning device to examine structures and materials better. It's portable and uses the same type of technology used for airport body scanners.

Reza Zoughi created a camera that can see through basically anything, made with the same kind of technology used in airport body scanners. As a professor at Missouri University of Science and Technology, Zoughi invented a portable camera that uses millimeter and microwave signals to see through various materials and structures.

Zoughi said in a statement:

"In the not-so-distant future, the technology may be customized to address many critical inspection needs, including detecting defects in thermal insulating materials that are found in spacecraft heat insulating foam and tiles, space habitat structures, aircraft radomes and composite-strengthened concrete bridge members."

Having a portable device could come in handy in a number of situations including the typical airport security purposes or for more off-beat applications such as detecting cancer.

The system works like this:

  • camera captures 30 images per second, as it goes through a transmitting source and is collected to get information about what's in the material
  • a laptop shows an image in real-time
  • runs on low-battery power

The patented camera system could potentially be used to detect defects in non-metallic materials and structures. And hopefully the scanning technology won't be able to see through clothing like the airport security scanners can. This device doesn't do any scanning, that's the main difference between this handheld device and the scanners at the airport. It's all done in real-time.

You can have a handheld camera to look at something and say it's okay. For instance, you can look for termites in a house just by walking around with the camera. Another application of the technology could help address anything that has to do with your skin and can be used to diagnose a lesion or a burn.

"I'm working on making the system so it's one-sided to act like a video camera," he said. "We hope that it will end up helping a lot of people in a lot of areas. Imagine instead of closing bridge, you didn't have to. The gain in resources in terms of times and dollars is how this technology will be making an impact," Zoughi said.

Even for airport security applications...Instead of touching people, you can just look at them with the camera, Zoughi said.

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