Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a prototype imaging system that’s able to read pages of a book without opening it.

A decade ago, a group at MIT demonstrated the ability to look through a sealed envelope using terahertz waves – the band of electromagnetic radiation between microwaves and infrared light. The project led Barmak Heshmat, a present-day research scientist at MIT’s Media Lab, to question just how deep one could look through a closed book using terahertz waves.

Working closely with researchers from Georgia Tech, Heshmat and company have demonstrated the ability to identify letters up to nine pages deep. As technology continues to advance, the team no doubt hopes to be able to peer deeper into a book without opening it.

In terms of practicality, the team says the technique could be used to study ancient books that are so fragile that they can’t be opened without risk of destroying their contents.

A paper on the matter, Terahertz time-gated spectral imaging for content extraction through layered structures, has been published in Nature Communications for those interested in learning more.

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