New Chip Poised To Enable Hand-Held Microwave Imager

A novel microwave imager chip created by researchers may one day be used in low-cost handheld imagers or cameras. The new imager might help image through walls or find tumors through body tissue because microwaves can pass through some opaque items.

The researchers explain how they created an imager chip with more than 1,000 photonic components using a typical semiconductor fabrication method. The spherical chip is slightly wider than a pencil eraser at just over 2 millimeters on each side.

The most useful bench-top microwave imagers available today are large and pricey. The new near-field imager processes the microwave information using optical, not electronic, components. It made it possible for us to create a chip-based imager that is comparable to the optical camera chips found in many devices.

Portable near-field microwave imagers would be beneficial for various uses, such as high-resolution brain imaging and tracking respiration and heartbeat. Applications such as tracking objects in radar systems and low-power, high-speed communication links would profit from the miniaturization of microwave imagers.

A picture is formed on the image sensor of an optical camera, such as those found in smartphones. The novel near-field imager uses four antennas to gather microwave signals reflected from objects. 

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