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Engineers turn noise into vision
Date:4/2/2010

A new technique for revealing images of hidden objects may one day allow pilots to peer through fog and doctors to see more precisely into the human body without surgery.

Developed by Princeton engineers, the method relies on the surprising ability to clarify an image using rays of light that would typically make the image unrecognizable, such as those scattered by clouds, human tissue or murky water.

In their experiments, the researchers restored an obscured image into a clear pattern of numbers and lines. The process was akin to improving poor TV reception using the distorted, or "noisy," part of the broadcast signal.

"Normally, noise is considered a bad thing," said Jason Fleischer, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Princeton. "But sometimes noise and signal can interact, and the energy from the noise can be used to amplify the signal. For weak signals, such as distant or dark images, actually adding noise can improve their quality."

He said the ability to boost signals this way could potentially improve a broad range of signal technologies, including the sonograms doctors use to visualize fetuses and the radar systems pilots use to navigate through storms and turbulence. The method also potentially could be applied in technologies such as night vision goggles, inspection of underwater structures such as levies and bridge supports, and in steganography, the practice of masking signals for security purposes.

The findings were reported online March 14 in Nature Photonics.

In their experiments, Fleischer and co-author Dmitry Dylov, an electrical engineering graduate student, passed a laser beam through a small piece of glass engraved with numbers and lines, similar to the charts used during eye exams. The beam carried the image of the numbers and lines to a receiver connected to a video monitor, which displayed the pattern.

The researchers then placed a translucent piece
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Contact: Chris Emery
cemery@princeton.edu
609-258-4597
Princeton University, Engineering School
Source:Eurekalert

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