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News 07-09-12 09:30 PM

CSI image enhancement: using evanescent waves to see the invisible
 
Those of you who read my writing regularly know that I love pretty pictures. From my perspective, pretty much every camera and imaging system in the world is disappointing, because, when you "enhance the image," you end up with a pixelated mess. I want to be able to zoom in and have details magically appear, dammit.

The problem is that the information required to enhance the image isn't actually in the image itself. So, how can you possible recreate those details when you don't have them in the first place? This is precisely what a group of researchers from Israel and Germany has done using something called coherent diffractive imaging. And, while this is probably never going to turn up in a real crime scene investigation, the industrial and scientific applications are going to keep me happy for at least 20 minutes.

Where are the details?

In every article I write about imaging, I yammer on extensively about the diffraction limit, and how it limits the image to features above a certain size. Now, although I can (and will, if I don't get a drink) go on about this at length, the crux is that light carries the image information in its spatial frequencies. If we were to illuminate a scene with a green laser, the scene appears green, but the spatial details are still there, carried by the amplitudes and directions (the spatial frequencies) that the green light is traveling when it hits the lens of your eye.

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