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Tiny, Low-Cost Radar Chip
Thu, 15 Jun 2006, 23:18

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(NUI) - Tiny, low-cost "radar on a chip" is rapidly gaining consumer usefulness.

Radar is a detection system that uses sound waves to measure shape and distance. A bat's high-pitched "squeak" is an organic radar pulse that lets the flying rodents "see" a mosquito in the dark. A device developed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to monitor laser technology amounts to a bat brain-sized radar device now available at hardware store costs.

The versatile "micropower impulse" radar performs the same tasks as equipment that costs $40,000 but uses only $10 to $15 in off-the-shelf components. It fits on a 1.5-inch-square circuit board and can run on a pair of AA batteries for eight years. The price is expected to decrease.

The radar chip sends out electrical pulses at 50 trillionths of a second and then receives the echoes on a patented receiver which can detect echoes reflected from objects at distances up to 200 feet. The device offers tremendous accuracy at low power.

Soon to be on the market are hand tools which use the device, including a detector for locating steel within concrete. Automobile makers will use it for backup warning systems; medical researchers envision a device sewn into an infant's crib mattress to detect pulse and breathing.

"You are going to see this radar in many places," says Livermore Lab's engineer Tom McEwan. "It's like uncorking a genie."

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