Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New camera system creates high-resolution 3-D images from up to a kilometer away

05.04.2013
Applications include imaging man-made targets such as moving vehicles

A standard camera takes flat, 2-D pictures. To get 3-D information, such as the distance to a far-away object, scientists can bounce a laser beam off the object and measure how long it takes the light to travel back to a detector.

The technique, called time-of-flight (ToF), is already used in machine vision, navigation systems for autonomous vehicles, and other applications, but many current ToF systems have a relatively short range and struggle to image objects that do not reflect laser light well. A team of Scotland-based physicists has recently tackled these limitations and reported their findings today in the Optical Society's (OSA) open-access journal Optics Express.

The research team, led by Gerald Buller, a professor at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, describes a ToF imaging system that can gather high-resolution, 3-D information about objects that are typically very difficult to image, from up to a kilometer away.

The new system works by sweeping a low-power infrared laser beam rapidly over an object. It then records, pixel-by-pixel, the round-trip flight time of the photons in the beam as they bounce off the object and arrive back at the source. The system can resolve depth on the millimeter scale over long distances using a detector that can "count" individual photons.

Although other approaches can have exceptional depth resolution, the ability of the new system to image objects like items of clothing that do not easily reflect laser pulses makes it useful in a wider variety of field situations, says Heriot-Watt University Research Fellow Aongus McCarthy, the first author of the Optics Express paper.

"Our approach gives a low-power route to the depth imaging of ordinary, small targets at very long range," McCarthy says. "Whilst it is possible that other depth-ranging techniques will match or out-perform some characteristics of these measurements, this single-photon counting approach gives a unique trade-off between depth resolution, range, data-acquisition time, and laser-power levels."

The primary use of the system is likely to be scanning static, man-made targets, such as vehicles. With some modifications to the image-processing software, it could also determine their speed and direction.

One of the key characteristics of the system is the long wavelength of laser light the researchers chose. The light has a wavelength of 1,560 nanometers, meaning it is longer, or "redder," than visible light, which is only about 380-750 nanometers in wavelength. This long-wavelength light travels more easily through the atmosphere, is not drowned out by sunlight, and is safe for eyes at low power. Many previous ToF systems could not detect the extra-long wavelengths that the Scottish team's device is specially designed to sense.

The scanner is particularly good at identifying objects hidden behind clutter, such as foliage. However, it cannot render human faces, instead drawing them as dark, featureless areas. This is because at the long wavelength used by the system, human skin does not reflect back a large enough number of photons to obtain a depth measurement. However, the reflectivity of skin can change under different circumstances. "Some reports indicate that humans under duress—for example, with perspiring skin—will have significantly greater return signals," and thus should produce better images, McCarthy says.

Outside of target identification, photon-counting depth imaging could be used for a number of scientific purposes, including the remote examination of the health and volume of vegetation and the movement of rock faces, to assess potential hazards. Ultimately, McCarthy says, it could scan and image objects located as far as 10 kilometers away. "It is clear that the system would have to be miniaturized and ruggedized, but we believe that a lightweight, fully portable scanning depth imager is possible and could be a product in less than five years."

Next steps for the team include making the scanner work faster. Although the data for the high-resolution depth images can be acquired in a matter of seconds, currently it takes about five to six minutes from the onset of scanning until a depth image is created by the system. Most of that lag, McCarthy says, is due to the relatively slow processing time of the team's available computer resources. "We are working on reducing this time by using a solid-state drive and a higher specification computer, which could reduce the total time to well under a minute. In the longer term, the use of more dedicated processors will further reduce this time."

The research was funded by the United Kingdom's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Paper: "Kilometer-range, high resolution depth imaging via 1560 nm wavelength single-photon detection," A. McCarthy et al., Optics Express, Vol. 21, Issue 7, pp. 8904-8915 (2013) (link: http://www.opticsinfobase.org/oe/abstract.cfm?uri=oe-21-7-8904).

EDITOR'S NOTE: High-resolution images are available to members of the media upon request. Contact Angela Stark, astark@osa.org.

About Optics Express

Optics Express reports on new developments in all fields of optical science and technology every two weeks. The journal provides rapid publication of original, peer-reviewed papers. It is published by the Optical Society and edited by Andrew M. Weiner of Purdue University. Optics Express is an open-access journal and is available at no cost to readers online at http://www.OpticsInfoBase.org/OE.

About OSA

Uniting more than 180,000 professionals from 175 countries, the Optical Society (OSA) brings together the global optics community through its programs and initiatives. Since 1916 OSA has worked to advance the common interests of the field, providing educational resources to the scientists, engineers and business leaders who work in the field by promoting the science of light and the advanced technologies made possible by optics and photonics. OSA publications, events, technical groups and programs foster optics knowledge and scientific collaboration among all those with an interest in optics and photonics. For more information, visit http://www.osa.org.

Angela Stark | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.osa.org

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht A novel hybrid UAV that may change the way people operate drones
28.03.2017 | Science China Press

nachricht Timing a space laser with a NASA-style stopwatch
28.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

'On-off switch' brings researchers a step closer to potential HIV vaccine

30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine

Penn studies find promise for innovations in liquid biopsies

30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine

An LED-based device for imaging radiation induced skin damage

30.03.2017 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>