Your smartphone could soon get Superman-like X-ray vision

Rebecca Hills-Duty
Superman X-ray vision smartphone

Researchers have developed a chip that can see through walls, and it might be coming to your smartphone.

Engineers from the University of Texas and Seoul National University were inspired by the X-ray vision powers of Superman when they set about creating a new type of imager chip that would allow smartphones to identify objects behind walls or within packages.

The team says that the purpose of the device was to allow smartphone users to easily detect studs, wooden beams, or wiring behind walls. It could also be used to find cracked pipes or scan packages or luggage in airports.

The imaging chip has a 1×3 array of high-frequency transceiver pixels, which operate at 3000 GHz. The device uses signal in the millimeter-wave band of the electromagnetic spectrum, putting it in between microwaves and infrared.

Imaging chip for X-ray

Similar technology is used in airports for body scanners and is considered safe for humans. The research team has worked to make this technology far more portable and bring it to more mainstream use.

Those concerned about privacy should note that this device needs to be about an inch away from what you are scanning, and the scanning process takes time. Thus, anyone attempting to scan someone’s bag, for instance, would rapidly become very conspicuous.

The details of the research were published in the journal IEEE Transaction on Terahertz Science and Technology. The team is continuing its work and hopes that its next iteration of the imaging chip will be capable of scanning objects from a distance of five inches. This could then pave the way for the technology to be incorporated into various devices for a range of applications.