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

of plastic similar to cellophane tape between the glass plate and the receiver. The tape-like material scattered the laser light before it arrived at the receiver, making the visual signal so noisy that the number and line pattern became indecipherable on the monitor, similar to the way smoke or fog might obstruct a person's view.

The crucial portion of the experiment came when Fleischer and Dylov placed another object in the path of the laser beam. Just in front of the receiver, they mounted a crystal of strontium barium niobate (SBN), a material that belongs to a class of substances known as "nonlinear" for their ability to alter the behavior of light in strange ways. In this case, the nonlinear crystal mixed different parts of the picture, allowing signal and noise to interact.

By adjusting an electrical voltage across the piece of SBN, the researchers were able to tune in a clear image on the monitor. The SBN gathered the rays that had been scattered by the translucent plastic and used that energy to clarify the weak image of the lines and numbers.

"We used noise to feed signals," Dylov said. "It's as if you took a picture of a person in the dark, and we made the person brighter and the background darker so you could see them. The contrast makes the person stand out."

The technique, known as "stochastic resonance," only works for the right amount of noise, as too much can overwhelm the signal. It has been observed in a variety of fields, ranging from neuroscience to energy harvesting, but never has been used this way for imaging.

Based on the results of their experiment, Fleischer and Dylov developed a new theory for how noisy signals move through nonlinear materials, which combines ideas from the fields of statistical physics, information theory and optics.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Air Force.

Their theory provides a gen
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Contact: Chris Emery
cemery@princeton.edu
609-258-4597
Princeton University, Engineering School
Source:Eurekalert

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