April 19, 2012 at 3:21 PM ET
A cellphone-like gadget that sees through walls, paper, plastics and, well, just about anything you might want to see through, may soon be more than a staple of science fiction, according to researchers experimenting with a largely unused range in the electromagnetic spectrum and a new imaging chip.
The team is tapping into terahertz waves, a band that falls between microwave and infrared and is used in places such as airports to see what people packed in their suitcases or strapped to their chests.
Kenneth O and his colleagues at the University of Texas at Dallas think they've found a way to send out terahertz waves with a cellphone-like gadget, bounce the waves off an object, and process them with a new chip they made with Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) technology.
CMOS is the basis of most gadgets we use today, such as smartphones, laptops and HDTVs, the team notes.
“The combination of CMOS and terahertz means you could put this chip and receiver on the back of a cellphone, turning it into a device carried in your pocket that can see through objects,” O said in a press release.
The team envisions such a device as a handy tool for finding studs in a wall, detecting counterfeit money and scanning for cancer tumors.
O presented the imaging chip at the recent International Solid-State Circuits Conference and is currently working on building a CMOS terahertz prototype that could find its way into future cellphones.
-- Via Mashable
John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. To learn more about him, check out his website and follow him on Twitter. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.