The Journal of the Optical Society of America A (JOSA A) has recognized a paper written by UNM Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Majeed Hayat and former student Sergio N. Torres as one of the 15 most-cited papers in the past decade of the publication.
“Kalman filtering for adaptive non-uniformity correction in infrared focal-plane arrays” is specialized reading that has sparked new research projects as researchers throughout the world have explored the possibilities suggested in the paper. The paper was published in March 2003. It’s taken the intervening decade for experts to determine just how much influence this research had on other researchers in the field.
Hayat, who is also associate director of the Center for High Technology Materials (CHTM) at UNM and a fellow of the Optical Society of America, says the problem with infrared imagers is that they give you a noisy, dirty picture – like gazing through a screen. That’s because multiple detectors are used to build a mosaic of a thermal image. The detectors don’t always agree on the temperature so the traditional fix has been to drop a shutter over the view every minute or so to allow them to recalibrate themselves. But precious information can be lost during the second or so that the shutter obscures the view.
Hayat’s paper suggests a video-processing algorithm to solve that problem without using a shutter, making the quality of the imagery better without the added cost and complexity of mechanical shutters.
Other researchers have been using the solution enthusiastically, including Torres who is now a professor at the Universidad de Conception in Chile. One of his students, Sebastian Godoy, is now studying at UNM with Hayat. Torres and his research group are experimenting with a way to scan seafood for the presence of a particular parasite. Currently humans have to visually inspect seafood, searching for the parasite. The research project offers a possible way to speed and improve the scanning process.
In another application, Sanjay Krishna, director of CHTM, is working on a start-up company to use infrared imaging technology to diagnose skin cancer without invasive biopsy procedures. One of Torres’ students, David A. Ramirez, who later received his Ph.D. under Hayat and Krishna at UNM, is now in New Mexico working with Krishna on this technology.
In fact, thermal imaging has numerous applications that affect every-day life of ordinary people. For example, the automotive industry has been using thermal imagers for night vision of drivers. This technology is spreading to all cars as the quality of thermal imaging is improving and its cost is going down.
Hayat says his work can be traced back to the National Science Foundation (NSF), which gave him an Early-Career Award when he was a professor at the University of Dayton. The NSF invests each year in the work of young professional researchers without knowing where or how the investment will pay off. In Hayat’s case, the payoff is a terrific solution to a complex problem that other researchers are using in all kinds of unexpected ways.