Low-Cost Spectral Imaging on the Horizon

27 December 2016

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has created a hyperspectral mobile device by converting an iPhone camera into a new kind of optical sensor. According to VTT, this could bring the possibilities of low-cost spectral imaging to consumers, who would be able to use their mobile phones to gauge food quality or monitor health, for example.

Imaging paper currency reveals hidden security features. Image credit: Timo Kauppila.Imaging paper currency reveals hidden security features. Image credit: Timo Kauppila. Optical spectral imaging offers a versatile way of sensing various objects and analyzing their material properties. Hyperspectral imaging provides access to the optical spectrum at each point of an image, enabling a wide range of measurements.

In VTT's device, an adjustable micro electro mechanical systems (MEMS) filter is integrated with the camera lens. The adjustment of the optical MEMS chip is synchronized with the camera's image-capture system.

"Today's smart devices provide huge opportunities for the processing of image data and various cloud services based on spectral data," says Anna Rissanen, who heads the research team at VTT. "Mass-produced sensor technology will enable the introduction of hyperspectral imaging in a range of devices in which low-cost camera sensors are currently used."

VTT anticipates a number of new applications for the hyperspectral camera, including the diagnosis of skin cancer, various drone applications for precision agriculture and forest monitoring, environmental sensing based on nanosatellites and remote measurement of vessel emissions. Driverless cars could also use the technology to sense and identify environmental features based on the representation of the full optical spectrum at each point of an image, Rissanen adds.

To contact the author of this article, email engineering360editors@ieeeglobalspec.com

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