Not for your usual photography though.
Oil spills are a major problem in the modern world. It is caused by illegal dumping of oil, faulty tubing, or just bad engineering. And since humans are responsible for this mess, we have to monitor it. Typically, people used oil imagers to detect oil spills, but the camera can only reach a certain distance.
Enter the Pyxis camera, developed by Polaris Sensor Technologies in Alabama, USA. Aside from it can "see" in infrared and in pitch blackness, the camera also detects how objects scatter light, in this case, oil and water. The camera achieves this by using infrared polarimetry, which is used by astronomers to help identify distant heavenly bodies. So, although only astronomers can afford to utilize those big, immobile set-ups, the company still managed to make use such great technology but in a smaller mobile camera.
“The optical system and the physics behind it are very complex,” says Polaris Sensor Technologies president David Chenault. “We started building infrared polarimeters several decades ago, but they were bulky and not capable of looking at dynamic scenes.” Now, the Pyxis camera can spot spills that are unseen to the naked eye (oil sheens) from two kilometres away--this means that you can just mount it on a drone or a helicopter. Now, confirming if the spill is real or just a false positive is easier, faster and cost effective.
So far, the camera has passed tests using diesel and crude oil in different wave conditions in the lab and at an actual oil spill in California. But in no time, this technology could then be used to detect different kinds of oil spills everywhere. And since the camera can detect different oils, it can also be used to help recover planes that are lost at sea, since the crash left a trace of aviation fuel on the sea’s surface.
More applications for the camera are likely to be discovered when the company goes into mass production including facial recognition. Since the camera works in any lighting situation, using polarised infrared imagers could give a more consistent and reliable output that other imagers.
Get weekly science updates in your inbox!