They see things that are usually hidden to the human eye. They offer a view into places that optical sensors can't reach. All in all, radars can make the invisible visible. Based on millimeter waves, they can see through not just fog and smoke, but plastics, card, wood and textiles as well, showing us what lurks behind. Researchers at Fraunhofer IAF have now harnessed the unique features of millimeter waves to develop a compact W-band radar that is ideal for use as an industrial sensor element. The new device penetrates packaged products to yield accurate data on their contents. The IAF researchers first showcased the use of this radar in an industrial context at HANNOVER MESSE 2018, where they exhibited alongside Research Fab Microelectronics Germany.
Developed by the IAF, the W-band radar is similar in function to an X-ray machine that allows medics to look into the human body. However, unlike X-rays, the short-wave rays emitted by the Fraunhofer radar are not harmful to health. In fact, the transmission power is 100 times smaller than that of a cellphone. The impressive properties of this compact radar module have a wide range of potential applications that extend beyond industrial sensors. "Radar can be used wherever there is a need for contact-free material testing, the inspection of packaged goods or high-precision distance measurements under difficult conditions such as restricted visibility," explains Christian Zech from Fraunhofer IAF. The institute has already launched several projects covering topics such as safety aspects in human-machine interaction, the use of radar in the harsh environment of a steelworks, and safe landing assistance for helicopters.
Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Festkörperphysik IAF (79108 Freiburg, Germany)