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Thursday
Oct202011

Could MIT-Developed Technology Help Military See Through Walls?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Looking through walls is no longer something we read about in comic books or watch in Superman movies.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory has presented new radar technology that would allow humans to see through a solid wall.

The device is 8.5-feet long. It consists of an array of antennae arranged in two rows -- including eight signal receiving elements on the top and 13 signal transmitting elements at the bottom. Other components include cabling, a low-power radar transmitter, a sensitive radar receiver, a filoscope (used as a small screen purely for diagnosing problems) and of course a larger screen, similar to the average 24-inch computer screen, where one can actually view images transmitted.

All this equipment is mounted onto a movable cart that can stand at a range from 15 to 40 feet from the location you're observing.

Researcher and leader of the project, Dr. Gregory Charvat, tells ABC News the technology was conceived with the notion that it would be used by U.S. soliders during wartime.

"It can be powerful during military operations, especially in urban combat situations," said Charvat.

The device works by emitting frequency waves at a low-power microwave signal. That signal will hit in the direction of the target, in this case a wall. Each time a wave hits the wall, only some of it is absorbed inside of the wall -- a tiny portion actually gets through. Once the waves go through the wall, they propagate whatever is behind the wall and pass back through that wall and into the radar's receivers.

Only moving images can be detected, so an image such as a couch or non-moving appliance would not show up on the monitor. Images appear as red blobs moving about the screen. The researchers are currently working on a detection algorithm that would convert these red blobs into a cleaner image.

When asked if the device had a name, Charvat said for now it's being called the TWIR -- Through Wall Imaging Radar.

"That's all we came up with, but if anyone has a better name we'll certainly take suggestions," said Charvat.

Don't expect to see the TWIR out on the streets, at least not anytime soon. It's being pitched solely for military use in urban war zones.

Charvet did say he and his colleagues think that perhaps a version of this technology could be very useful in finding people stuck in rubble in the event of a natural disaster or even a terrorist attack, but right now the plan is for military use.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio