Science

New smartphone camera could tell you what things are made of

New smartphone camera could te...
The Unispectral camera and software could tell you what's in your drink, as an example
The Unispectral camera and software could tell you what's in your drink, as an example
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The Unispectral camera and software could tell you what's in your drink, as an example
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The Unispectral camera and software could tell you what's in your drink, as an example

How would you like to be able to know the chemical composition of something, just by taking a snapshot or video of it with your smartphone? You may eventually be able to, thanks to a compact hyperspectral imaging camera being developed at Tel Aviv University.

Hyperspectral imaging involves scanning light spectra not visible to the human eye, in order to identify the unique electromagnetic "fingerprints" of various substances and processes.

While this can already be done with larger cameras, a team led by Tel Aviv's Prof. David Mendlovic is developing a much smaller optical component that could conceivably be built into a smartphone. It utilizes MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) technology, and is reportedly "suitable for mass production and compatible with standard smartphone camera designs."

In order for the images it captures to mean anything, however, it would need to be paired up with a database of different substances' hyperspectral signatures (the earlier-mentioned fingerprints). "The optical element acts as a tunable filter and the software – an image fusion library – would support this new component and extract all the relevant information from the image," explained Mendlovic.

A working prototype is reportedly in the works, and should be ready by June. The basic system has already been demonstrated at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month.

The technology is currently being developed under the name Unispectral, by the university's Ramot tech transfer company. Its suggested applications include consumer electronics, the automotive industry, biotechnology, and homeland security.

Source: Tel Aviv University

6 comments
Toffe Carling
Very cool, but not to be overly picky but 70%+40%+4.6%+5.1+20%+8.4%=148.1% Must be an overly full glass.
Brian Taylor
Could be a great tool for law enforcement.
Enginerd
Must be April Fools day since peat, grain and malt have readily known chemical spectra. Funny.
Larry McInnes
Does it also read the glass that the liquid is in, and any of the booze that's in the background.
HenriD
Steve Jasik, Your post was incredibly useful to me as I have been fantasizing about spectrometry ever since I was a teenager, but am in the IT bizness. Crop surveillance seems like a good application to me. Henri