NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed a plenoptic camera that can image two-dimensional (or in some cases, three-dimensional) spatial information as well as color, where in the final image, each pixel contains a spectrum of the imaged scene.

Plenoptic technology measures image brightness as well as the direction of the light rays. This enables new imaging capabilities such as refocusing the acquired image to different depths and viewing the same scene from slightly different perspectives. As an imaging pyrometer, the camera can measure 2D temperature (and possibly emissivity) distributions.

The camera incorporates an array of 470 × 360 microlenses, with each microlens producing an image onto a 14 × 14-pixel array. Specific colors or spectra can be continuous or arbitrarily determined and can be easily and inexpensively modified. Modifications of the collected spectra can be useful for different applications where the emitted light needs to be analyzed to determine qualitative or quantitative information about a flow, object, or scene. The sensor can measure fluid, mechanical, thermodynamic, or structural properties of gases, liquids, and solids.

NASA is actively seeking licensees to commercialize this technology. Please contact NASA’s Licensing Concierge at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call us at 202-358-7432 to initiate licensing discussions. Follow this link here  for more information.


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This article first appeared in the April, 2021 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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