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Smartphones to see through walls?
[December 11, 2012]

Smartphones to see through walls?

(UPI Science News Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Smartphones may soon have the capability of seeing through walls courtesy of a tiny, low-cost imaging chip, U.S. researchers say.

Two electrical engineers at the California Institute of Technology have invented tiny inexpensive silicon microchips that generate and radiate high-frequency electromagnetic waves, called terahertz waves.

These waves are in a largely unused region of the electromagnetic spectrum between microwaves and far-infrared radiation and can penetrate a host of materials without the ionizing damage of X-rays, a Caltech release said Monday.

When built into hand-held devices, they could lead to a range of applications in fields ranging from homeland security to wireless communications to healthcare, the researchers said.

"Using the same low-cost, integrated-circuit technology that's used to make the microchips found in our cell phones and notepads today, we have made a silicon chip that can operate at nearly 300 times their speed," electrical engineering Professor Ali Hajimiri said. "These chips will enable a new generation of extremely versatile sensors." Waves in the terahertz frequency range can easily penetrate packaging materials and yield high-resolution images of hidden objects, and can also detect the chemical fingerprints of pharmaceutical drugs, biological weapons, or illegal drugs or explosives, Hajimiri and postdoctoral scholar Kaushik Sengupta said.

Copyright 2012 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.

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