Analog Angle Blog

The innovative product I am really looking for

Most of us have wish list of products and innovations we’d like to see. These range from fairly linear extrapolations of what we now have (faster, cheaper, smaller, or with more features); all the way to those not possible within the laws of physics as we presently know them (anti-gravity machine, faster-than-light travel, maybe even a Star Trek “transporter”). But there are many in the middle of that span, ones which should be possible to achieve with reasonable, modest technology advances.

So here’s mine : I’d like to see an RF-sniffer aerosol. What do I mean by this? It would be a spray from a can which provides a “false color” visualization of the RF fields in a room, both by frequency and intensity, via a modest glow. You would spray it an the room would “light up” and indicate the RF field frequency and intensity throughout.

Colors could range from blue for lower-frequency RF, to red and violet for the GHz-and-higher RF bands. At the same time, the depth of color—its saturation—would give a relative indication of the local field intensity. The aerosol colorization would be somewhat like the false-color techniques that astronomers use when translating X-ray and other invisible-to-the-eye image radiation bands to full-color, such we saw with those dramatic pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Why do I want this ? I was using an antenna and receiver as a RF probe, to locate and localize some FM-radio RF hot spots and dead zones in a room, and it was as doable but time-consuming project. Sure, you can use a field strength meter or even a spectrum analyzer to get a detailed picture of the RF intensity versus frequency—but that’s only at the point where the probe is. To get a whole-area, 3D-image, you’d need to move that probe all over and create the full mapping. My aerosol would be less precise and more qualitative, but much quicker and much more visual.

So, does anyone know of a harmless chemical which fluoresces in proportion to RF-field intensity, and with a color relationship which spans kHz to GHz, and can be put into an aerosol? If not, can we synthesize one? It certainly would be handy to have when looking for sources of interference or Wi-Fi hot spots.

BTW, the target audience for this is not just engineers. It is also those who are concerned and even fearful of ambient RF energy; they would be likely customers, seems to me. But we would need a snappy, consumer-friendly marketing name, of course: “Visible RF”? “SeeMe Radiowaves”? (I welcome your suggestions!)

Are there items needing similar level of advancement—not too predictable or obvious, nor too far-out—on your list??

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