The erratic behaviour of photons zooming around and bouncing off objects and walls inside a room inspired researchers to combine them with advanced optics to enable them “see” what's hidden around the corners or even behind the walls. This technique, developed by the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Harvard, Wisconsin and Rice Universities, may prove invaluable in disaster recovery situations, as well as in non-invasive biomedical imaging applications. “Say you have a house collapsing and need to know if anyone is inside, our technology would be useful,” says Otkrist Gupta, MIT graduate student who led the study, the journal Optics Express reports. “Imagine photons as particles bouncing right off the walls and down a corridor and around a corner-the ones that hit an object are reflected back,” explains Gupta. “When this happens, we can use the data about the time they take to move around and bounce back to get information about geometry,” he adds, according to an MIT statement.
Laser see what's behind walls (Image credit: Getty Images)
Using advanced optics in the form of an ultrafast laser and a 2-D specialised camera, the team exploited being able to capture billions of images per second to demonstrate the technology's ability to “see” objects by analysing the light moving around a corner or through water bottle. “It's ideal for use in nearly any disaster-type situation, especially fires, in which you need to find out what's going on inside and around corners-but don't want to risk sending someone inside because of dangerous or hazardous conditions. You could use this technology to greatly reduce risking rescue workers' lives,” Gupta points out. Gupta expects that it will likely be at least another five to 10 years before the technology becomes commercially available.