US Army sci­en­tists’ 19 patents lead to quan­tum imag­ing ad­vances


Cam­era tech­nol­ogy has ad­vanced be­gin­ning in the 1800s from an eight-hour devel­op­ment process to pic­tures gen­er­ated in sec­onds. Over the years there has been mono­chrome, Ko­dachrome and Po­laroid — to­day dig­i­tal imag­ing is pop­u­lar. Quan­tum imag­ing in the mil­i­tary is also ad­vanc­ing at a rapid pace.

Re­cently, Ron­ald E. Mey­ers and Keith S. Dea­con of the US Army Re­search Laboratory (ARL) part of the Re­search Devel­op­ment and En­gi­neer­ing Com­mand, re­ceived a patent from the US Patent and Trade­mark Of­fice on November 26 for their novel quan­tum imag­ing tech­nol­ogy called, “Sys­tem and Method for Im­age En­hance­ment and Im­prove­ment.”

The new­est devel­op­ment com­bines a novel method of pho­ton mea­sure­ment and com­put­ing to cre­ate a sharp im­age. This patent is the 19th for Mey­ers in the ar­eas of quan­tum tech­nol­ogy and physics. It builds on the team’s port­fo­lio from last year with patents to build a high res­o­lu­tion im­age out of low-res­o­lu­tion trans­mis­sion and also one to pro­duce high res­o­lu­tion im­age frames us­ing quan­tum prop­er­ties.

Mey­ers, the leader and prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor for the Quan­tum Imag­ing In­for­ma­tion Science and Tech­nol­ogy mis­sion pro­gramme of the Com­pu­ta­tional and In­for­ma­tion Sciences Direc­torate at ARL, looks at his Quan­tum Imag­ing Cam­era as, “a new and bet­ter way to get a pic­ture.”

In ad­di­tion to be­ing funded by the Army, Mey­ers has col­lab­o­rated with Air Force funded quan­tum re­search ef­forts. The Navy has em­ployed quan­tum cas­cade lasers to il­lu­mi­nate a sample sur­face with one or more wave­lengths, ac­cord­ing to the Naval Re­search Laboratory web­site. “But the Army has led the devel­op­ment of quan­tum imag­ing re­search based on the needs of the Sol­dier,” Mey­ers said.

The Army prob­lem is that ground troops need a way to see a long dis­tance through tur­bu­lence in an oper­a­tional en­vi­ron­ment. The op­ti­cal tur­bu­lence that Sol­diers see dur­ing a real-world mis­sion is caused by wind and heat­ing and is ex­ac­er­bated by smoke that de­grades cam­era im­ages and makes pic­tures much less clear, he said.

As cam­era tech­nol­ogy evolves, this new way to im­age re­mote ob­jects is help­ful be­cause Sol­diers can iden­tify what they see from a longer, safer dis­tance in a way that clas­si­cal imag­ing doesn’t al­low, Mey­ers said. There are clas­si­cal imag­ing tech­niques, that use in­frared or am­pli­fy­ing light for night time use, but you get bet­ter re­sults uti­liz­ing quan­tum imag­ing, also called ghost imag­ing, he said. “We are over­com­ing prob­lems that clas­si­cal imag­ing can’t cope with, and solv­ing them with bet­ter physics so­lu­tions en­abling quan­tum imag­ing ap­pli­ca­tions.”

The the­ory it­self be­hind quan­tum imag­ing is not the same as it is with clas­si­cal imag­ing, and has key ben­e­fi­cial dif­fer­ences. Typ­i­cally ghost imag­ing pic­tures come from quan­tum prop­er­ties of pho­tons, elec­trons and atoms to pro­duce an im­age of an ob­ject that the cam­era it­self can­not see, Mey­ers said.

ARL’s imag­ing uses non­lo­cal multi-pho­ton quan­tum in­ter­fer­ence, re­lated to en­tan­gle­ment, to can­cel at­mo­spheric tur­bu­lence and ab­nor­mal­i­ties. The method works at vir­tu­ally all wave­lengths for pas­sive and ac­tive imag­ing. The re­searchers demon­strated the ex­per­i­ments at a dis­tance of 2.33 km away from the tar­get.

Since the team in­vented re­mote ghost imag­ing and pub­lished the first ghost im­age of a re­mote ob­ject in 2007, that of a toy sol­dier, they have im­proved the quan­tum imag­ing physics and they un­der­stand the phe­nom­ena bet­ter. The ex­per­i­men­tal set-ups are also much more ef­fi­cient than they were five years ago, Mey­ers said.

They ex­pected to see im­prove­ments dur­ing more re­cent test­ing but “what we didn’t ex­pect is that even with high noise, low sig­nal strength, and tur­bu­lence, the im­ages were in­cred­i­bly sharp,” Mey­ers said. The quan­tum imag­ing sys­tem and method’s re­sult pro­duced clear long dis­tance im­ages through strong tur­bu­lence and low light con­di­tions. When the team first started study­ing ghost imag­ing in 2003 they demon­strated this tech­nique us­ing lasers. Mey­ers said, “The great­est chal­lenge back then was get­ting good mea­sure­ments.”

“I knew in the be­gin­ning that we had to con­duct the ex­per­i­ment in a way that anybody could re­peat it with sim­i­lar re­sults,” Mey­ers said. “Some­times those im­ages would take up to six hours to pro­duce, but the most re­cent ex­per­i­ments pro­duced im­ages in sec­onds.” The re­search team’s cur­rent goal is to ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ent wave­lengths to ap­ply them to in­tel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance from the ground, a satel­lite or a mil­i­tary un­manned ae­rial ve­hi­cle. Fu­ture de­vel­op­ments may also in­clude en­tan­gled pho­tons.

Mey­ers has per­formed re­search for the ARL since 1982. He was sin­gled out as the Army sci­en­tist with the most patents ear­lier this year as the Army was named on Thom­son Reuters 2012 Top 100 Global In­no­va­tor list. He said the achieve­ment he was most proud of is “mov­ing ghost imag­ing from a physics cu­rios­ity to a prac­ti­cal far-reach­ing tech­nol­ogy now un­der devel­op­ment for the Army. This patented quan­tum imag­ing in­ven­tion is an­other step for our team to­wards pro­vid­ing the Army with new gen­er­a­tions of imagers that en­hance sit­u­a­tional aware­ness on the bat­tle­field.”

US Army Re­search Laboratory physi­cist Ron­ald E. Mey­ers ex­plains the con­cepts of a Quan­tum Net­work with Atoms and Pho­tons or QNET-AP

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