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Road safety through snowflake imaging

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two images of a snowflake

Using a two-camera system, the researchers can capture images in stereo. That is, if you look at the center of the image and unfocus your eyes, the two images merge into one, creating the illusion of a three dimensional ice crystal.

Credit: Cale Fallgatter


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In the late 1800's, Wilson Bentley and Gustav Hellmann began photographing snowflakes. However each of their photos revealed entirely different representations of snowflakes. How could nature present two different forms of snowflakes? Today, University of Utah engineer Cale Fallgatter and atmospheric scientist Tim Garrett are helping to solve that mystery with the use of a new camera system that photographs free-falling snowflakes.

Credit: at the end of video

 

snowflakes

The original camera was a game changer for snowflake identification, because it captured detailed images of snowflakes in freefall without altering their shapes. With funding from the NSF Small Business Technology Transfer program, engineer Cale Fallgatter hopes to do the same for roadside weather stations using the same fundamental technology. "Ultimately, we hope that this new camera technology will play a role in making the public safer during challenging winter weather," says Ben Schrag, NSF SBIR program director. "Cale and Tim are very well-suited to lead the transition of the underlying science into a commercially viable product."

Credit: Tim Garrett and Cale Fallgatter


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snowflake

The new camera system, called the present weather imager, has 1.3 megapixels, is industrial grade and priced to compete with weather stations in use by departments of transportation. The technology upon which it is based allows the system to distinguish between different types of precipitation more precisely.

Credit: Cale Fallgatter


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water droplets

Classifying precipitation near the freezing point of water is especially challenging. The new camera system developed with NSF funding will provide information on particle composition, speed, size and angle. To see this image in 3-D, stare at the center of the picture and unfocus your eyes.

Credit: Cale Fallgatter


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