London, UK A team of engineers and physicists at Northumbria University, with funding of £89 000 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), are developing a microwave-based technique that can generate high-quality images of hidden objects.
The research may lead to the use of microwaves as a safer alternative to X-rays in airport security checks, building searches, landmine detection and other applications. Microwave radiation has the potential to produce 3-dimensional holographic images of objects concealed from view.
Although technically viable, microwave imaging systems will only see widespread deployment if they can produce results quickly and cheaply. To do this technique being developed by the project will comprise a two-stage process.
The first involves the use of conventional detectors to measure the 2-dimensional pattern made by the scattering of microwaves when they come into contact with a hidden object. The second stage takes this data and uses computer software to construct a 3-dimensional image from it. The technique aims to avoid the need to use complex 'one-stage' equipment that produces images slowly and at considerable expense.
Dr David Smith, from the University's School of Engineering and Technology, is leading the project, said “Although we are just at the beginning of this research, our ultimate aim is to offer an alternative, fast 3D microwave imaging technique which can be used across a wide range of disciplines.”
The research initiative will last 23 months and to explore the medical potential of microwave imaging, the Wellcome Trust has awarded the research team a grant of £125,000.