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Ultra-sensitive cameras promise no more security check queues

Credit: Australian National University

The Australian National University has led a team of researchers in inventing a device that would not require people to queue at airports for security checks.

According to a recent report, the device could be developed into ultra-sensitive cameras for security screening. Other applications could also include smaller and safer sensors for driverless vehicles.

The research done had already led to the production of a proof-of-concept prototype device and provisional patent.

The device is made with metasurfaces. These are ultra-compact complex structures that can control the direction of electromagnetic waves to perform highly advanced sensing functions.

The device is capable of sensing, with unprecedented precision, the entire environment that surrounds it.

Before the device, this achievement can only be done by using multiple fixed sensors pointing towards different direction.

The lead researcher, who came from the Nonlinear Physics Centre at the University’s Research School of Physics and Engineering, explained that the concept could benefit the development of super-sensitive cameras for security systems at airports.

Hazardous devices or dangerous chemicals found in the passengers’ carry-on baggage are among those that can be detected and identified by these future cameras.

There is no need for the people to queue up and go through the various security procedures that are presently necessary since the cameras can detect items as passengers walk through an airport.

Unlike conventional cameras used in CCTV, this type of camera cannot recognise the faces of the people.

The concept could provide a new foundation for next-generation electromagnetic devices.

These devices could include more compact sensors for driverless cars and other vehicles that can help to overcome safety challenges encountered with today’s technologies.

Some of the safety challenges include sensing hazards in rough weathers or narrow spaces.

This new device was the first of its kind to be arbitrarily tuneable so that it can direct electromagnetic waves towards any direction or control multiple beams to perform different functions at the same time.

The research provides the first theoretical and experimental demonstration that dynamic and arbitrary control of electromagnetic waves is possible.

The leader of the microwave and terahertz group at the Nonlinear Physics Centre said the research team would continue to develop the device so that it is ready to be commercialised and manufactured on a large scale.

The team is very interested in realising the concept at other frequency bands, including terahertz and even optical frequencies.

Hopefully, there would be opportunities to collaborate with industrial partners in order to explore the full potential of this concept in practical applications.

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