Scientists at Tel Aviv University (TAU) have developed a camera system capable of recognizing colors from the infrared spectrum that does not require conversion to the visible spectrum after the fact, a normally expensive and time-consuming process.
Scientists say the technology allows them to image gases and substances like hydrogen, carbon and sodium as well as naturally occurring biological compounds that are typically invisible to the human eye and most sensors. of camera.
The research was conducted by Dr. Michael Mrejen, Yoni Erlich, Dr. Assaf Levanon and Professor Haim Suchowski from the Department of Condensed Materials Physics at TAU.
The human eye and most cameras pick up pictures of light in wavelengths between 400 nanometers and 700 nanometers, between the wavelengths of blue and red. This is only a small part of the electromagnetic spectrum, and below 400 nanometers is ultraviolet radiation and above 700 is infrared.
As explained on Physical, colors in these parts of the spectrum are of great importance because many materials have a unique signature expressed as color, especially those in the mid-infrared range. They point in particular to cancer cells, as they are more easily detected because they have a higher concentration of molecules of a particular type that show up in the infrared.
“In each of these parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, there is a vast amount of information about materials encoded as ‘colors’ that have hitherto been hidden from view,” says Dr Mrejen.
“We humans can see between red and blue. If we could see in the infrared range, we would see that elements like hydrogen, carbon and sodium have a unique color,” Prof Suchowski explains. “So an environmental monitoring satellite could ‘see’ a pollutant emitted by a factory, or a spy satellite could see where explosives or uranium are hidden. Moreover, since every object emits heat in the infrared, all this information could be seen even at night.
Infrared sensing already exists, but what makes this research particularly exciting is that it makes seeing the “colors” of the spectrum much more affordable than before. For example, in medical imaging, experiments have been performed that take infrared images that are converted to visible light to identify cancer cells, but the conversion required extremely sophisticated and expensive cameras that were simply not feasible or accessible for general use.
But what the TAU researchers have achieved is a cheaper, more efficient technology that can be mounted on a standard consumer camera and can make visible the conversion of the entire mid-infrared region to frequencies that the human eye can perceive. .
The research report has been published on Wiley and the team has already filed a patent application on the technology. They hope to produce it for widespread use, and several companies have already expressed interest in working on the project.
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