Advanced Imaging


Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

Signing on for Hazardous Duty

Remote Ocean Systems' nuclear fuel inspection system with two color zoom cameras (indicated by the red circles) works outside the reactor.
A four-dimensional "image" of seismic data collected by Input/Output's Digital Futurewave sensor.
Micro Video lenses incorporating Edmund Optics' Harsh Environment Optics.
The specialized IMAPCAR parallel processing chip from NEC Electronics boasts 100 gigaOPS (1 billion operations per second) performance.
Rockwell Collins Optronics' Dual Aperture Visible Sensor, DAVS 100.

By Lee J. Nelson
Contributing Editor

Vibration, ionizing radiation, excessive temperature and pressure: all can define conditions that imaging components may be called upon to withstand. Whether the volatile vapor-laden setting of automotive applications, the hazardous environment of outer space or even inside the human body, suppliers conceive and build sensors, optics, displays and sub-systems to meet the rigors of extreme imaging.

In what, perhaps, was the firm's most laudable achievement, DALSA Corporation's (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada) CCD sensors were installed aboard Mars Exploration Rovers, "Opportunity" and "Spirit." More than three years after launch, the chips continue to capture visually stunning images; proving that high performance can go hand-in-hand with robustness and reliability, even in the excesses of space.

Spirit successfully began transmitting high-resolution color images of the red planet a mere three days after touching down on the Martian surface. The space-qualified sensors, designed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Pasadena, Calif.), were manufactured at DALSA's semiconductor wafer production facility in Bromont, Québec.

Nine cameras are mounted aboard each of the two Rovers: three cameras for scientific investigation, including panoramic and stereoscopic imagery. Six others aid vehicle navigation. As the Rovers surveil the local terrain's mineralogy, texture and structure, the imagers search for prior geological evidence of liquid water and conditions which once may have been hospitable to life.

Spirit's high-resolution Pancam stereo pair was conceived at Cornell University (Ithaca, N.Y.) and built at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It employs the DALSA chips and is the most sophisticated imaging system ever sent to another planet. Pancam does not take a color picture directly. Instead, as with other astrophotographic CCD-based cameras, a series of eight filters are applied to gather multiple monochromatic images that are blended together. The panoramic mosaics, so generated, are as large as 4000 pixels high by 24,000 pixels around, or about 275 megabytes each.

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