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Innovative ultrasonic biometric sensor maps out blood vessels under fingerprints

Ultrasound pulses generate 3D images for higher security


A new study by the North Carolina State University published in the IEEE Sensors Journal describes a new biometric sensor that can map out blood vessels and fingerprints via ultrasound pulses.

The research hints at fingerprint applications that are inherently more secure than traditional 2D fingerprint biometrics. This is because while traditional sensors can pick up a person’s unique fingerprint pattern of ridges and valleys, these can be potentially replicated with advanced spoofing techniques. 

The new device can also capture the finger’s blood vessel pattern, thus introducing a new layer of security for biometric authentication.

It does so by allowing a finger to trigger a pressure sensor that causes the emission of a high-frequency pulsed ultrasonic wave, which reflected amplitudes can be used to determine both the fingerprint and blood vessel patterns.

The new device was tested using an artificial finger created from polydimethylsiloxane and filled with bovine blood.

The experiments allowed for the capture of electronic images of both the fingerprint and parts of the blood vessel patterns with resolutions of 500 by 500 dots per inch, reportedly enough for commercial biometric applications.

The scientists behind the study said that, while 40 percent of the blood vessels that lay underneath the valleys of the fingerprint could not be detected by the sensor, they could potentially be reconstructed using data interpolation or other advanced processing techniques.

“We envision this 3D fingerprint recognition approach can be adopted as a highly secure bio-recognition technique for broad applications including consumer electronics, law enforcement, banking, and finance, as well as smart homes,” said Chang Peng, co-author of the study.

Moving forward, the team is looking to submit a patent for the technology, as well as improve the current hour-long scanning time by using an array of ultrasonic fingerprint sensors instead of a single one.

Though used in a minority of fingerprint scanners, ultrasonic fingerprint capturing technology continues to be explored by various biometrics firms, including Fingerprint Cards.

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