3d images

Technology can visualize various materials and structures with detailed chemical information

It’s not exactly x-ray vision, but it’s close. In research published in the journal Optical, University of California, Irvine researchers describe a new type of camera technology that, when aimed at an object, can quickly retrieve 3D images, displaying its chemical content down to the micrometer scale. The new technology promises to help companies inspect things like the insides of computer chips without having to open them — a breakthrough that researchers say could speed up the production time of such products by more than a hundred times.

“This is a paper about a way to visualize things in 3D very quickly, even at video rate,” said Dmitry Fishman, director of UCI’s Department of Chemistry Laser Spectroscopy Laboratories, who together with Eric Potma, professor of chemistry, led the work. The new imaging technology is based on a so-called nonlinear optical effect in silicon – a semiconductor material used in visible light cameras and detectors.

Thanks to such a nonlinear optical effect, conventional silicon detectors can detect light from the mid-infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum. The reason for this, Fishman explains, is that the mid-infrared spectral region contains important information about the chemical composition of the material. “Most vibrations and molecular signatures are in the mid-infrared range,” he said.

Other technologies, he explained, are slow to retrieve the images because the laser light has to scan the object – a process that takes longer. “A nonlinear optical ‘trick’ with short laser pulses allowed us to capture a depth-resolved image on a camera in a single shot, providing an alternative method to what others are doing – and the breakthrough is that this is not only faster, but also produces 3D images with chemical contrast,” Fishman said.

And imaging technology isn’t just for computer chips. Potma explained that the system can also image things like the ceramics used to make things like heat shield plates on space shuttles and reveal clues to structural weaknesses that might be there.

The research follows work by Potma and Fishman and a team of researchers published last year in Nature’s Light: Science & Applications that outlines the first steps toward creating effective mid-to-infrared sensing technology. using off-the-shelf silicon-based cameras. . At the time, the technology was just beginning to take shape, but now, Fishman explained, it’s about to be ready for the mainstream. “This time we made it much more efficient and better,” he said.

Funding for the work came from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. The work was done in collaboration between UCI scientists and Yong Chen, a professor in Epstein’s Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Southern California.

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Material provided by University of California – Irvine. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.