A photograph, as we all know, needs to capture light coming from an object in order to manifest. This is why it is difficult for a camera to photograph hidden objects or objects around the corner or hidden underneath. But, we can have cameras that can photograph hidden objects, using laser technology.
Researchers at Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh have figured out a way to capture information from an object from randomly scattered light. The logic is simple although the technology is quite complicated and requires a huge quantity of data processing.
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Right now if you need to see something behind a wall you either require x-ray vision or you need to place a mirror in front of the object or the person and when the light is reflected off the mirror, you can see what or who is behind the wall.
As you can see in the video embedded below, a laser pulse is thrown beyond the wall just at a place where the light from the hidden object might be traveling in a straight line. The camera designed to photograph hidden objects is focused at a point on the floor that is in the line of the light coming from the object, slightly ahead of the wall.
After hitting the floor, the laser pulse begins to scatter and eventually it hits the object. The laser light is then bounced off the object and it begins to come back until it reaches the place on the floor where the camera is focused. At this particular juncture, that part of the floor acts as a virtual mirror.
The speed of light is constant and is known. By measuring the time interval between the start of the laser pulse and the scattered light reaching the patch on the floor the position of the object can be gauged.
This is not a job for a regular camera. For example, the timing measurement needs to be accurate within around 50,000 billionths of a second and the camera should be able to detect even extremely low levels of light.
The laser pulses used for detecting hidden objects are just 10 million billionths of a second long. The camera should be able to capture the scattered light pulse within a few hundred billionths of a second.
But what if there are many objects that are hidden? The distance traveled by light from a moving object and from a stationary object will be different and this is how the noise will be canceled out.
The camera is highly sensitive; it can capture even a single photon. It is also extremely fast, it can capture 20 billion frames per second.
The utility of the camera isn’t just photographing hidden images. As the technology develops further, it can be used to find people under collapsed buildings and seek out terrorists hiding behind mountains and inside caves.
Military operations can be made more efficient by finding out how many people might be hiding a captured inside a building. The technology can also be used in auto-driven vehicles.
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