Nav: Home

Hyperspectral camera captures wealth of data in an instant

May 20, 2019

Standard snapshots from space don't quite show Earth in all its glory. There's so much more to see.

To reveal details impossible to observe with the naked eye, Rice University engineers are building a portable spectrometer that can be mounted on a small satellite, flown on an airplane or a drone or someday even held in the hand.

Bioengineer Tomasz Tkaczyk and his colleagues at Rice's Brown School of Engineering and Wiess School of Natural Sciences have published the first results from a NASA-funded project to develop a small, sophisticated spectrometer with unusual versatility. Their paper appears in Optics Express.

A spectrometer is an instrument that gathers light from an object or a scene, separates the colors and quantifies them to determine the chemical contents or other characteristics of what it sees.

The Rice device, called the Tunable Light-Guide Image Processing Snapshot Spectrometer (TuLIPSS), will let researchers instantly capture data across the visible and near-infrared spectrum, unlike current systems that scan a scene line-by-line and for later reassembly.

Each pixel in the hyperspectral images produced by TuLIPSS contains either spectral or spatial information. The "pixels" in this case are thousands of optical fibers, flexible light guides that deliver the image components to a detector. Because they can reposition the fibers, researchers can customize the balance of image and spectral data sent to the detector.

The device, for example, can be tuned to measure the chemistry of a tree to see if it's healthy or diseased. It can do the same for a cell, a single leaf, a neighborhood or farm, or a planet. In continuous-capture mode, akin to a camera's motor drive, it can show how the spectral "fingerprints" in a stationary scene change over time, or grab the spectral signature of a lightning bolt in real time.

Tkaczyk said TuLIPSS is unique because it works like any camera, capturing all the hyperspectral data - what researchers refer to as a data cube - in an instant. That means an airplane or orbiting satellite can snap an image of the ground quickly enough to avoid motion blur that would distort the data. Onboard processing will filter the data and send only what's required back to Earth, saving time and energy.

"This would be an interesting tool in the case of an event like Hurricane Harvey," Tkaczyk said. "When there's a flood and potential contamination, a device able to fly over a reservoir could tell if that water is safe for people to drink. It would be more effective than sending someone to a site that may be hard to reach."

In a normal camera, a lens focuses incoming light onto a sensor chip and converts the data into an image. In TuLIPSS, the lens focuses that light onto a middleman: the bundle of optical fibers.

In the current prototype, these fibers collect more than 30,000 spatial samples and 61 spectral channels in the 450-to-750 nanometer range - essentially, hundreds of thousands of data points - split by prisms into their component bands and passed on to a detector. The detector then feeds these data points to software that recombines them into the desired images or spectra.

The fiber array is tightly packed at the input and rearranged into individually addressable rows at the output, with gaps between them to avoid overlap. Spacing the rows allows researchers to tune spatial and spectral sampling for specific applications, Tkaczyk said.

First author Ye Wang, who earned her doctorate this year at Rice, and her colleagues painstakingly built the prototype, assembling and positioning the fiber bundles by hand. They used scenes in and around Rice to test it, reconstructing images of buildings to fine-tune TuLIPSS and taking spectral images of campus trees to "detect" their species. They also successfully analyzed the health of various plants with spectral data alone.

Continuous capture images of moving traffic in Houston showed the system's ability to see which spectra are shifting over time (such as moving vehicles and changing traffic lights) and which are stable (everything else). The experiment was a useful proof-of-concept to show how well the spectrometer could filter motion blur in dynamic situations.

Co-author David Alexander, a professor of physics and astronomy and director of the Rice Space Institute, said the researchers have begun discussions with the city of Houston and Rice's Kinder Institute for Urban Research about testing TuLIPSS in aerial studies of the city.

"Since we need to test TuLIPSS anyway, we want to do something useful," he said, suggesting a hyperspectral map of the city could reveal how the urban landscape is changing, distinguish buildings from parks or map sources of pollen. "In principle, regular flights over the city will allow us to map out the changing conditions and identify areas that need attention."

Tkaczyk suggested future versions of TuLIPSS will be useful for agricultural and atmospheric analysis, algae blooms and other environmental conditions where quick data acquisition will be valuable.

"The real challenge has been to decide what to focus on first," Alexander said. "Ultimately, we want to be successful enough that the next phase of development pushes us closer to flying TuLIPSS in space."
-end-
Co-authors are Rice research scientists Michal Pawlowski, Jason Dwight and Shuna Cheng, postdoctoral researcher Razvan Stoian and graduate student Jiawei Lu. Alexander is a professor of physics and astronomy. Tkaczyk is an associate professor of bioengineering.

Initial funding for the project came through a $2 million, 3-year award to Rice as part of $53 million in grants by NASA's Science Mission Directorate and its Earth Science Technology Office to develop innovative instruments and technologies for future Earth science methods and observations.

Read the abstract at https://www.osapublishing.org/oe/abstract.cfm?uri=oe-27-11-15701&origin=search

This news release can be found online at https://news.rice.edu/2019/05/20/hyperspectral-camera-captures-wealth-of-data-in-an-instant/

Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews

Related materials:

Rice's spectral eyes bound for the skies: http://news.rice.edu/2016/11/14/rices-spectral-eyes-bound-for-the-skies-2/

Modern Optical Instrumentation and Bio-Imaging Laboratory (Tkaczyk lab): http://www.owlnet.rice.edu/~tt3/

Rice Department of Bioengineering: https://bioengineering.rice.edu

George R. Brown School of Engineering: https://engineering.rice.edu/

Video:

https://youtu.be/kihPhuk60-U

Continuous capture images of moving traffic in the Houston neighborhood around Rice University shows how the TuLIPSS spectrometer filters motion blur in dynamic situations. The full-color video is a composite of the filtered spectral data captured by the device. The portable spectrometer has proven its ability to capture far more data much quicker than other fiber-based systems. (Credit: Modern Optical Instrumentation and Bio-Imaging Laboratory/Rice University)

Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation's top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,962 undergraduates and 3,027 graduate students, Rice's undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is just under 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for lots of race/class interaction and No. 2 for quality of life by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger's Personal Finance.

Rice University

Related Rice Articles:

High-protein rice brings value, nutrition
A new advanced line of rice, with higher yield, is ready for final field testing prior to release.
Rice plants engineered to be better at photosynthesis make more rice
A new bioengineering approach for boosting photosynthesis in rice plants could increase grain yield by up to 27 percent, according to a study publishing January 10, 2019 in the journal Molecular Plant.
Can rice filter water from ag fields?
While it's an important part of our diets, new research shows that rice plants can be used in a different way, too: to clean runoff from farms before it gets into rivers, lakes, and streams.
Rice plants evolve to adapt to flooding
Although water is essential for plant growth, excessive amounts can waterlog and kill a plant.
Breeding better Brazilian rice
Rice production in Brazil is a multi-billion-dollar industry. It employs hundreds of thousands of people, directly and indirectly.
Breakthrough in battle against rice blast
Scientists have found a way to stop the spread of rice blast, a fungus that destroys up to 30% of the world's rice crop each year.
More rice, please: 13 rice genomes reveal ways to keep up with ever-growing population
Rice provides 20% of daily calories consumed globally. We will need more as population grows toward 9-10 billion by 2050.
Ancient rice heralds a new future for rice production
Growing in crocodile infested billabongs in the remote North of the country, Australia's wild rice has been confirmed as the most closely related to the ancient ancestor of all rices.
2-faced 2-D material is a first at Rice
Rice University materials scientists replace all the atoms on top of a three-layer, two-dimensional crystal to make a transition-metal dichalcogenide with sulfur, molybdenum and selenium.
Multi-nutrient rice against malnutrition
ETH researchers have developed a new rice variety that not only has increased levels of the micronutrients iron and zinc in the grains, but also produces beta-carotene as a precursor of vitamin A.
More Rice News and Rice Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 3: Shared Immunity
More than a million people have caught Covid-19, and tens of thousands have died. But thousands more have survived and recovered. A week or so ago (aka, what feels like ten years in corona time) producer Molly Webster learned that many of those survivors possess a kind of superpower: antibodies trained to fight the virus. Not only that, they might be able to pass this power on to the people who are sick with corona, and still in the fight. Today we have the story of an experimental treatment that's popping up all over the country: convalescent plasma transfusion, a century-old procedure that some say may become one of our best weapons against this devastating, new disease.   If you have recovered from Covid-19 and want to donate plasma, national and local donation registries are gearing up to collect blood.  To sign up with the American Red Cross, a national organization that works in local communities, head here.  To find out more about the The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project, which we spoke about in our episode, including information on clinical trials or plasma donation projects in your community, go here.  And if you are in the greater New York City area, and want to donate convalescent plasma, head over to the New York Blood Center to sign up. Or, register with specific NYC hospitals here.   If you are sick with Covid-19, and are interested in participating in a clinical trial, or are looking for a plasma donor match, check in with your local hospital, university, or blood center for more; you can also find more information on trials at The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project. And lastly, Tatiana Prowell's tweet that tipped us off is here. This episode was reported by Molly Webster and produced by Pat Walters. Special thanks to Drs. Evan Bloch and Tim Byun, as well as the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.  Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.