Scientists Invent an Image Sensor Capable of Seeing Through Walls, Like Superman

Scientists Invent an Image Sensor Capable of Seeing Through Walls, Like Superman

American and Korean researchers have developed an electronic chip for smartphones capable of seeing through obstacles, particularly walls. An innovation that opens the way to numerous applications.

Curious as it may seem, it was Superman's vision of seeing through walls that inspired the research of a team of scientists from the University of Texas at Dallas and Seoul National University. These eminent researchers have developed an electronic imaging chip—a kind of photosensor—capable of detecting objects hidden behind obstacles such as dust, smoke, cardboard, or even partitions, and which could soon be integrated into smartphones and other portable devices.

The principle behind this revolutionary innovation is based on medium-frequency electromagnetic waves, between 200 and 400 GHz. These frequencies are much lower than light waves, between 350 and 750 THz. Invisible to the human eye, they can be used to create images of objects hidden behind various barriers. Unlike X-rays, which are harmful to health, they pose no danger to humans. This technology is, in fact, similar to that used in airport security screening systems, but much more miniaturized, which is what makes it so interesting.

One of the special features of this technology is that it requires no lenses or optics. The chip detects waves reflected by target objects to create pixels and form images. Researchers have been working for over fifteen years to make this sensor small enough to be integrated into mobile devices such as smartphones. Above all, they sought to miniaturize it without sacrificing image quality, which they achieved thanks to advanced digital signal processing techniques. 

To address privacy concerns, researchers have limited the chip's range to around 2.5 cm. So, to scan an object, you'd have to be very close, making it difficult to use discreetly for malicious purposes. However, the next version of this chip could see at a distance of 12 cm.

This technology promises many practical applications, such as easily finding studs, cables, or pipes hidden behind walls during renovation work. It could also detect cracks in pipes, inspect the contents of packages without opening them, and improve security checks. For the moment, it cannot be used on human bodies, as the water contained in living tissue absorbs the waves used. However, according to researchers, it could one day be used to see through the skin for medical applications.

Although this technology is still in the development phase, the researchers are optimistic about its potential. They stress the importance of continuing to work on the chip's security and limitations to avoid malicious uses of this "supervision." There is no doubt that this breakthrough will pave the way for numerous innovations in a wide range of fields.