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Getting to know QuantIC’s Aurora Maccarone

Here at QuantIC we like to profile our researchers and find out a bit more on what they are working on and today we’re doing a quick five minutes with Aurora Maccarone, one of our PhD students at the University of Heriot-Watt. Aurora recently won the Best Student paper presentation at the conference on Emerging Imaging and Sensing Technologies, part of the international SPIE Security and Defence Conference held in Edinburgh in September this year. Aurora’s paper was entitled “Depth imaging in highly scattering underwater environments using time-correlated single photon counting”. She has recently submitted her PhD thesis.

Aurora Maccarone_Web

What were you investigating for your PhD?
During my PhD I investigated the potential of a single-photon depth profiling system for imaging in highly scattering underwater environments. This scanning system measured depth using the time of flight and the time correlated single photon counting (TCSPC) technique.

Laboratory-based depth profiles measurements were performed in different scattering conditions. The operational wavelength was adapted to the scattering level of the environment in order to optimise the transmittance of light in water. High-resolution image re-construction was demonstrated for targets placed at stand off distances equivalent up to nine attenuation lengths, using average optical power in the sub milliwatt range. This is an important result because other techniques allow to image with a monostatic optical system at standoff distances equivalent up to approximately 7-7.5 attenuation lengths, using optical power levels of the order of 10s mW.

Can you tell us a bit more about the applied aspects of your research?
In open ocean environments, nine attenuation lengths are equivalent to approximately 90 metres, while in a harbour environment means few metres. Therefore, this technique can be used for several purposes, including defence and civil engineering. In civil engineering this system can provide a useful tool for studying broken pipes, or also for ship inspection, just to mention two examples. About the detection of broken pipes, I think that more investigation should be done. During our experiments, we were able to observe some small bubbles on the surface of the target, therefore it could be the case that it is possible to detect gas leaking. However, more studies should be done on this. At the last SPIE conference in Edinburgh several companies showed interest in this research, mainly for defence purposes due to the nature of the conference.

What have you found most rewarding about your research?
What I found most rewarding was facing a new challenge at every step of the project, which gave me the possibility to investigate different topics. There are still several investigations to perform, and for sure this is pushing me to go on in this field beyond my PhD. This will involve mainly testing and optimising a submerged scanning unit, in order to investigate natural environments. So far the system was used in controlled conditions, therefore it will be interesting to test the system in a real scenario.