Dr. Murzy Jhabvala, Chief Engineer of the Instrument Systems and Technology Division
- Saturday, 18 November 2006
We could monitor effluents from industrial operations like paper mills and mining operation and power plants that suck in river water for cooling and then spit it out. Sometimes they spit it out and it's too hot, and will harm the river and the life in the river.
A scientist here at Goddard, Friedeman Freud, thinks that prior to earthquakes occurring, the enormous pressures that are generated in the Earth's crust, prior to the actual quake, will emit an infrared photon that we can detect with a QWIP camera. So if, all of a sudden, we see a spike in this signal, it could indicate an earthquake is about to occur. This is still a theory; they are still trying to prove it. They believe there are physics to support it.
Then there is monitoring food spoilage, ripeness, and in particular, contamination-various diseases that are showing up in the food chain, Mad Cow and what have you. It might be possible to use the QWIP to identify any contaminants or any thing that is abnormal in selected food samples.
The US Geological Service would like to use the QWIP to locate caves. Particularly, on Mars. But before they do that, they would like to try to see if they can locate caves, on Earth. It wasn't clear to me on how they do this, but as it turns out, caves, during the day, they tend to be at equilibrium temperature. And then once it gets cold at night, the caves stay at their temperature, say, at 70° F, and if it gets cold at night, say 50° F, the mouth of the cave will be this big, bright hotspot. And so, it hadn't occurred to me, but they said they should be able to fly a helicopter over places like Arizona or New Mexico and try to find where caves are. And if they can, they would like to propose this as a way to find caves on Mars. They were particularly interested because of the discovery of a cave ecosystem, a pretty deep one, which was recently discovered in Israel. The Survey thinks that this could be occurring on Mars and we wouldn't even know it. Again, this is just a potential application.
What I am really pushing for are medical applications. I think there is a lot of potential here. The problem between the whole technology and medicine fields is that we speak two different languages. And they have lots of problems, and we have lots of solutions-and the two never seem to connect up right. The doctors don't know what infrared technology is, and we really don't know what they're looking for. If you've been following x-ray mammography, for years, if they want to do a mammogram, they still use x-ray film. But the CCD cameras, the things you use in your camcorders, can do an equally good job. The problem is, the professionals are so trained with these films, that when they look at these other types of images, they have to learn all over again. And so there is some reticence on the part of the medical profession to embrace these new, advanced technologies, and it is hard for the engineers to put it in terms so that doctors don't have to get an engineering degree to use it. But I think the problems are there, and the solutions are there, and we just have to figure out a way for the two to meet.