X-ray vision has always been confined to the realms of comic books, and as far as we knew the only people with the ability to use it were those who had fallen into some form of radioactive sludge and come out all the better for it, ready to put their powers to use fighting crime.
Now though, a team of engineers led by electrical engineering professor Kenneth O. at the University of Texas have broken that mold and raised a couple of questions in doing so – will we all soon be able to use it, and will it always be put to such good use?
How does it work?
The technology relies on the development of two closely linked elements of science. Firstly, the team exploited a wave range in the previously unexplored electromagnetic spectrum, and this worked in tandem with new microchip technology working in the terahertz band – another previously inaccessible area. Together, these advances were able to be put together to create a chip capable of seeing through wood, paper, plastic – and even the human body.
With some focused development, Professor O. commented that we could expect to see such a device in as little as two years.
Uses of the technology are broad and far reaching. This is the kind of technology which could find a very comfortable place in a military environment; where the ability to negate stealth technology would be invaluable.
As well as this, x-ray vision could open up a whole host of new medical opportunities; the ability to see so clearly into the human body could provide emergency response teams a much better insight into the severity of wounds and how best to go about treating them – a particularly pertinent point when we consider that the camera technology should be no bigger than a mobile phone and so easy to carry around.
MRI scans would also see a huge boost in effectiveness; as the device could allow for considerably deeper brain scans than previously possible. Other areas such as the stomach lining could also be explored in greater detail.
The team have limited their technology to an x-ray depth of around 4 inches; enough to allow for the advances in healthcare but, they hope, not enough to allow for other less savory uses.
Still, fears remain that, as with other new technology, there is always the possibility of the software getting hacked – and once this happens it seems likely that the hacker would remove these depth limitations. There is always a temptation and despite the efforts of any team of designers, their number will always be hugely outweighed by others who hope to exploit the device.
That said though, this should not necessarily stop development. When considering potential concerns we should always weigh them up against potential rewards – and when a human’s safety is at risk it’s always likely that the pros will outweigh the cons.