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See People Through Walls

An innovative system created at MIT will let you see people through concrete walls. The device is an ultrawideband (UWB) multiple-input, multiple-output phased-array sensor with real-time acquisition and processing capability; it provides video-like synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images of people moving behind a concrete wall.

At the core of the system is a range-gated continuous-wave radar architecture that provides dynamic range and sensitivity to acquire weak signals scattered from targets behind the wall. The radar set is connected to an array of UWB antenna elements consisting of two subarrays made up of 8 receive elements and 13 transmit elements. Microwave switches guide the transmitter port from the radar to one transmit element at a time. Similarly, microwave switches guide the receive port to one receive antenna at a time.


(Two humans about 30 feet down range)

The image quality is sufficiently high to resolve multiple humans behind a wall. Humans were located through the three types of wall tested when they were moving or standing still. Humans were located through the 4-inch concrete and cinder block wall even if they were sitting still or holding their breath while standing. Because humans move slightly even while trying to remain still, the radar system detected those small movements by using coherent radar processing techniques


(One of the through-wall experimental setups)

The radar system is located to the right and the cinder block wall is to the left. An absorber is mounted on the vertical reinforcement sections of the wall and clutter fences using a pyramidal absorber are mounted on the front of the wall to approximate the conditions of two-dimensional air-wall-air models. Plywood sheets on the ground allow the radar system to be easily moved around the target area. A Styrofoam "A-frame" holds the calibration target in front of the wall. When measurements are acquired, one or two humans walk around about 10 feet behind the wall.

I use some other sf devices as predecessors in the other stories; here's an amusing reference from a 1936 John W. Campbell story:

"They had the tube then. They called it the PTW tube - Probability Time Wave. They'd been trying to make a television set that would see through walls..."
(Read more)

This passage just goes to show that even seventy years ago, people were thinking about a device just like this one. Gordon Giles used a similar idea in his 1937 story Diamond Planetoid to see which planetoids where worth mining; take a look at the X-beam projector.

From MIT Lincoln Lab.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/18/2011)

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