Development of Passive Submillimeter-wave Video Imaging Systems for Security Applications

in: SPIE Proceedings (2012)
Heinz, Erik; May, Torsten; Born, Detlef; Zieger, Gabriel; Brömel, Anika; Anders, Solveig; Zakosarenko, Vyacheslav; Krause, Torsten; Krüger, Andre; Schulz, Marco; Bauer, Frank; Meyer, Hans-Georg
Passive submillimeter-wave imaging is a concept that has been in the focus of interest as a promising technology for security applications for a number of years. It utilizes the unique optical properties of submillimeter waves and promises an alternative to millimeter-wave and X-ray backscattering portals for personal security screening in particular. Possible application scenarios demand sensitive, fast, and flexible high-quality imaging techniques. Considering the low radiometric contrast of indoor scenes in the submillimeter range, this objective calls for an extremely high detector sensitivity that can only be achieved using cooled detectors. Our approach to this task is a series of passive standoff video cameras for the 350 GHz band that represent an evolving concept and a continuous development since 2007. The cameras utilize arrays of superconducting transition-edge sensors (TES), i. e. cryogenic microbolometers, as radiation detectors. The TES are operated at temperatures below 1 K, cooled by a closed-cycle cooling system, and coupled to superconducting readout electronics. By this means, background limited photometry (BLIP) mode is achieved providing the maximum possible signal to noise ratio. At video rates, this leads to a pixel NETD well below 1 K. The imaging system is completed by reflector optics based on free-form mirrors. For object distances of 3–10 m, a field of view up to 2 m height and a diffraction-limited spatial resolution in the order of 1–2 cm is provided. Opto-mechanical scanning systems are part of the optical setup and capable frame rates up to 25 frames per second. Both spiraliform and linear scanning schemes have been developed. Several electronic and software components are used for system control, signal amplification, and data processing. Our objective is the design of an application-ready and user-friendly imaging system. For application in real world security screening scenarios, it can be extended using image processing and automated threat detection software.

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