Scientists at MIT develop a device that can read books without opening them


Often while handling books of an antique variety, archaeologists, historians and, enthusiasts get extremely apprehensive about touching or opening it. The reason behind this is that the oil and dirt in our hands can damage these rare books, can erase the centuries old ink and can also cause a loss of important archaeological information. A solution to these problems has been found out by a team of scientists and researchers at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

They have developed a new technology that can read the pages of a closed book. The researchers tested a prototype on a stack of papers each with a letter printed on top of it and it was able to correctly identify the letters for the top 9 sheets. The system uses Terahertz radiation, the band of Electromagnetic radiation between Microwaves and Infrared light, which has several advantages over other types of waves that can penetrate surfaces such as X-rays or Sound waves. Terahertz frequency profiles can distinguish between ink and blank paper, in a way that X-rays cannot, and has a much better depth resolution than ultrasound. The system exploits the fact that between the pages of a book tiny air pockets of about 20 micrometers deep are trapped. The difference in refractive index between the air and the paper means that the boundary between the two will reflect the terahertz radiation back to a detector. It can also be used to analyse any materials organised in thin layers, such as coatings on machine parts or pharmaceuticals.

As things stand, the camera can gauge up to 20 pages in a stack but can detect the characters of only the top 9 pages. The developers, however, believe that the design can be evolved by using IR radiations, which have a frequency slightly higher than terahertz, and can prove as a boon to safely harness information from thousands of years’ worth of our cultural heritage.

Watch this video for more:

Video Source: MIT Media Labs
KHYATI PATHAK & SWETTA SHRIVASTAV | TOC

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