Millimeter-Waves: The Vision for the Future

Lead Research Organisation: University of St Andrews
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy


What if you could see through terrorists' clothes to detect hidden weapons? Or look to see how a volcano was changing underneath cloud or smoke? Or image wounds underneath bandages? Or scan for debris on a runway (of the type that recently contributed to the destruction of Concorde). How do you build car Radar for cruise control or collision avoidance? How do you image the ozone hole over the Antarctic, or see how stars form in the outer reaches of the galaxy? Or understand what the Universe looked like after the Big Bang?These are the type of questions that high frequency microwave or millimetre wave imaging technologies can and indeed already have answered. MM-wave remote sensing technology has now advanced to the point that it can produce high resolution 3-D imagery of range, temperature, reflection and velocity profiles through virtually any weather conditions, dusty and smoky atmospheres, as well as some visibly opaque materials such as fabrics and plastics. It is a fast moving area which has seen major advances in the last few years and offers current technical solutions that address some of the most profound and topical questions facing the UK today (particularly after the recent bombing outrages in London). The latest MM-wave imaging systems offer video-rate imaging with the ability to see through clothes: Despite wide media coverage of privacy and security issues such as the current debate over the provision of ID cards and the 'war on terror', imaging technologies and their implications are not widely understood by publics.Yet it represents an area that is still largely unknown to the public but where there are many issues related to privacy and cost versus performance. This combination of cutting edge science and topical issues makes the development of such technology an interesting and important subject for a public engagement programme.The main aim of this project is to educate and illustrate the alternative view of the world provided by mm-wave sensing technology ranging from medical imaging, to security imaging, to atmospheric sensing to imaging the entire universe! The project will also provide an arena in which issues relating to privacy, security and trust arising from such technologies can be discussed with scientists and publics.In this proposal we aim to use a state-of the art mm-wave imaging system as the centre-piece of a series of interactive demonstrations and/or presentations on the application of and issues surrounding high frequency microwave imaging technology in modern society, showing the uses of remote sensing from commonplace everyday experience right through to cutting edge research topics. Alongside the mm-wave imager, a variety of smaller-scale demonstration experiments will be used to illustrate the principles behing the science of remote sensing (e.g. a speed gun to show how radar can detect movement).This project seeks to highlight an area of research, which has seen increasing funding by both EPSRC and industry, and where the UK has been a leading player in the its technological development of this technology for a large number of years. It falls under several remits of the EPSRC (and other research councils) including the recent program on Crime Prevention and Detection Technologies.


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