Researchers from MIT have created a handheld device called GelSight that provides ultra-high resolution 3D scans of microscopic surface structure. The main section of the system is a small slab of transparent, synthetic rubber that’s coated on one side with a paint containing tiny flecks of metal. If you push the rubber against an object, the paint-coated side morphs to closely conform to the object’s texture.
In the video, we see a guy squidge his finger into the rubber, instantly amplifying the microscopic structure of his skin, and revealing a bold indentation of his fingerprint on the other side.
Once this rubbery solution is connected to a series of lights and cameras, it can be used to create 3D models of the underlying structure. The models can register physical features less than a micrometer in depth and about two micrometers across — enough to capture the raised ink patterns on a $20 bill.
GelSight grew out of a project to create tactile sensors for robots. But MIT researchers Edward Adelson and Micah Kimo Johnson quickly realised that their system provided much higher resolution than robotic sensing required.
The scanner has plenty of real-world applications. The team is already in discussion with aerospace companies and equipment manufacturers who are interested in using GelSight to check the microscopic integrity of their products. It could have applications in medicine, forensics, ballistics and biometrics.
By Wired UK