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Aussie know-how brings x-ray vision a step closer

26 September, 2011

While military and search-and-rescue teams have long wished for x-ray vision, the imaging systems work of Professor Abdesselam Bouzerdoum from the University of Wollongong is bringing the dream within reach.

Professor Bouzerdoum, from the School of Electrical, Computer and Telecommunications Engineering, is leading the way in developing through-the-wall radar imaging (TWRI) systems that can "see" objects behind walls, doors and other opaque materials.

For his research, which has a wide range of military, security and search-and rescue applications, Professor Bouzerdoum this month won the 2011 Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Support of Defence or National Security.

"Developing a reliable through-the-wall surveillance capability will prove invaluable to law enforcement, search-and-rescue, security and counter-terrorism agencies," the Director of the Australian Museum, Frank Howarth, said.

"The work of Professor Bouzerdoum has removed many of the technical challenges that have stopped these ‘x-ray' systems from becoming a reality and his group is one of the few worldwide with the capacity to lead this research into the future."

There are many situations when it is important to detect the presence of someone hidden inside a closed building and to know their precise location and movements.

Over the past five years Professor Bouzerdoum's research has transformed the technology required to provide reliable see-through-wall imaging, notably through his innovative work to reduce interference from wall reflections.

This is considered a major breakthrough in the field because many existing image formation techniques require a prior knowledge of the scene being examined, so that so-called background clutter can be removed -- something which is not feasible in real-life situations.

His work on "compressed sensing", which requires fewer measurements to "reconstruct a scene", has also led to improved image quality and faster data acquisition. At present, he is focusing on developing advanced signal-processing techniques to extend the operational range and sensitivity of TWRI systems.

This is expected to lead to the design of a low-cost, portable TWRI system that supports real-time target detection and tracking, high-resolution 3D imaging, removal of background clutter and automatic target recognition.

There is considerable interest worldwide for imaging systems that can "see through walls". Professor Bouzerdoum's research is positioning Australia among the leading nations in this technology.

His research will enhance the capability of defence and counter-terrorism organisations, and lead to a much-welcomed resource for law enforcement and search-and-rescue personnel.

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