Researchers at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland have created an underwater holographic camera capable of taking 3D images of microparticles and marine organisms. In addition to being compact, the device is able to process a large amount of underwater photographs in near real-time.
The weeHoloCam can be used to study complex marine habitats in finer detail or to monitor offshore pollution by detecting the appearance of microplastics and other elements impossible to see with the naked eye in low light conditions.
“Until now, speed has been a major limiting factor in terms of wider practical applications of digital holography. But with weeHoloCam, the recorded holograms are processed in near real-time, allowing scientists to visually examine the images as they are captured”, explains engineering professor Thangavel Thevar, responsible for the project.
Compared to other devices, the weeHoloCam is the smallest camera of its kind on the market. It is 9 cm in diameter, 60 cm in length and weighs just over 3.5 kg. This compact size makes the equipment ideal for use in autonomous or remotely operated underwater vehicles.
In the first tests carried out in the North Sea, near the city of Aberdeen, engineers captured 100,000 holograms of different types of aquatic organisms in record time and with an accuracy that allows monitoring in areas that were previously impossible to observe with quality.
“Each hologram can be thought of as a stack of thousands of 2D images, but we developed an algorithm to quickly reconstruct those images, identify particles and extract them to create 3D versions. The processing time is much faster than existing systems, which makes the weeHoloCam one of the most modern devices in the world”, celebrates Professor Thevar.
images of the future
After successful tests, researchers plan to use the holographic camera in various underwater surveys. In partnership with Marine Scotland Science, an institution that studies marine life in Scotland, they will develop a plankton monitoring program in several regions.
In addition, the Defense & Security Accelerator (DASA) program, which financed the project to create the camera, intends to use the weeHoloCam in scientific defense and security applications, with the creation of a bank of high-resolution holographic images in surrounding areas. of Scotland.
“This is exactly the kind of innovation that DASA funding is designed to accelerate. The weeHoloCam has the potential to build a useful defense capability in just a few years, making a really fast and positive impact on environmental security across the country.” , celebrates DASA project manager Chris Jenkinson.
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