Imagine if you could just breathe on a little device and it would tell you whether you had asthma or lung cancer. If only you could point a camera to a fish to find out if it’s tainted. Or how about photographing the smoke from a chimney or an exhaust pipe and immediately be able to identify which pollutants are being emitted?
All this could become possible thanks to an invention by three scientists from the Department of Photonics Engineering at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU).
They have invented an extremely sensitive and compact camera accessory, which can capture radiation in the mid-infrared region, and can be used to identify a wide range of chemicals from a distance.
The device operates by detecting the characteristic spectral fingerprints emitted by chemical substances. Gas molecules vibrate in very specific ways. When they do, they absorb or emit an infrared light corresponding to the vibrational mode of the individual molecule. Measuring this light makes it possible to identify the type of gas. The camera can not only measure the radiation from the molecules, it can also reveal when the molecules absorb the radiation.
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