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Ultrasonic fingerprinting technique is professor’s research topic

An RIT scientist with a passion for ultrasound is applying his medical imaging know-how to help a Buffalo-based company fine-tune its unique fingerprinting-identification device.

Graduate students Laura Blair and Raj Panandiker work on the ultrasonic fingerprint scanner developed by Ultra-Scan Corp.

Navalgund Rao, associate professor in RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, has teamed up with Ultra-Scan Corp., the maker of ultrasonic finger scanners for companies and government agencies. Rao’s work will help Ultra-Scan create test procedures used to verify compliance of standards issued by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Ultrasound, also known as ultrasonics, uses high-frequency sound waves to read information through barriers. The technology is commonly used to scan the ocean floor, to “see” beneath the earth’s surface in search of gas and oil, and to monitor the development of a fetus.

Ultra-Scan uses ultrasound to read fingerprints. The technology’s accuracy surpasses other methods of fingerprinting – such as optical imaging and the old inkpad method – because sound waves can pierce through grease and dirt that could obscure a reading.

Rao, whose regular research interests apply ultrasonic imaging to medical diagnostics, entered the project by way of happenstance and a bit of Internet surfing.

“I was searching on the Internet to see who was working on ultrasound,” Rao says. “I came across their Web page.” He contacted John Schneider, the chief technology officer at Ultra-Scan, who also was looking for an ultrasound physicist to work with him on problems that his company lacked the time to investigate.

The collaborative project was made possible by a $30,000 Center for Advanced Technology grant administered by the Center for Electronic Imaging Systems, the New York State Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research, and matching contributions from Ultra-Scan.