Researchers have developed a new microwave imager chip that could one day enable low-cost handheld microwave imagers, or cameras. Because microwaves can travel through certain opaque objects, the new imagers could be useful for imaging through walls or detecting tumors through tissue in the body.
In Optica, The Optical Society’s (OSA) journal for high-impact research, the researchers describe how they used a standard semiconductor fabrication process to make a microwave imager chip containing more than 1,000 photonic components. The square chip measures just over 2 millimeters on each side, making it about half the width of a pencil eraser.
“Today’s practical microwave imagers are bench-top systems that are bulky and expensive,” said research team leader Firooz Aflatouni from the University of Pennsylvania, USA. “Our new near-field imager uses optical, rather than electronic, devices to process the microwave signal. This enabled us to make a chip-based imager similar to the optical camera chips in many smartphones.”