Scientists have figured out a way to see through opaque materials using light

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Feb 16, 2015

It’s something so cool that it made the cut in Superman’s power list, and now scientists think they’ve figured out how to see through solid materials. It’s not exactly X-ray vision, but if it pans out, it could actually be better.

A team of scientists at the University of Twente in the Netherlands have reportedly discovered a way to see through opaque barriers by recording wavelengths from visible light. After shooting the light, the team then reassembled scattered light that passed through the opaque material to create a usable image of what is one the other side. The project was chronicled in a report in Nature.

According to the report, the team knew they were onto something after the very first test of shining light through a solid surface (in this case a glass slide covered in white paint). Instead of picking up a faint blur, the test “produced a sharp pinprick of light a hundred times brighter than they had hoped for.” At that point, they knew they were onto something. Here's how researcher Allard Mosk described the discovery:

"I really just wanted to try this because it had never been done before, This just doesn't happen on the first day of your experiment. We thought we'd made a mistake and there must be a hole in our slide letting the light through!"

They’ve been able to develop the tech to see through some thin organic materials, such as mouse ears, but depth remains an issue. The research is still in its infancy, but the team seems the implications as being potentially huge — i.e. full-body imaging that would be higher resolution than current X-rays. Also: art restoration (to see behind a top layer of paint), and military applications.

It's obviously still a long way from practical application, but still a very cool discovery.

(Via The Verge, Nature)