image of mouse lung showing composition changes in different parts of the tissue

Hyperspectral imaging can be used to analyse tissues, like this mouse lung sample

Hyperspectral imaging for analysing materials

Checking the contents of tablets, finding new ore bodies to mine, identifying tumours – these are just some of the applications of hyperspectral imaging.

  • 8 November 2007 | Updated 14 October 2011

Key science issues

Understanding what materials are made of (their composition) and how this varies throughout a material is important in many areas of science and business, mineral exploration, and manufacturing.

Spectroscopy is one technique scientists use to find a material's chemical composition. It measures how a material interacts with light, including visible, infrared and ultraviolet.

Hyperspectral imaging combines spectroscopy and imaging technologies. It is widely used in mineral exploration, for example, to discover new ore bodies.

Special cameras are mounted on an aeroplane or above a core tray on the ground and gather data about the spectra of light reflected from the minerals and other material below.

A spectrum is gathered for each pixel in an image so information can be obtained about how the mineral content varies in different parts of the landscape.

Hyperspectral imaging, and spectroscopy, is based on the fact that every chemical has its own unique spectrum - a wiggly line that acts like the chemical’s signature.

A spectrum shows how a chemical responds to light at different wavelengths. The challenge is to understand what a spectrum says about a material's composition.

This is complicated when:

With the right software, you can tell a lot about a material from its spectrum.
  • several chemicals, and therefore their spectra, are mixed together in the material
  • there is no information on the number of chemicals in the mixture
  • there is no information on the unique spectra of some or all of the chemicals.

How CSIRO is addressing these issues

CSIRO has developed software that allows spectra to be 'unmixed' into their pure spectra, even when the spectra of some of the chemicals in the mixture are not known.

CSIRO has developed software for mineral exploration called The Spectral Assistant.

This has been incorporated into The Spectral Geologist, a software package used by companies for both exploration and mining.

Now that more compact hyperspectral cameras and microscopes are available, CSIRO is developing applications for health and biotechnology such as:

  • quality control of contents of tablets - see Hyperspectral imaging for tablet inspection brochure
  • analysing the composition of living tissues - see Hyperspectral imaging for tissue analysis brochure.

Applications in the food industry are also being explored.

Our teams

CSIRO image analysis and minerals exploration specialists have worked together over many years to improve hyperspectral imaging technology.

Key scientists are:

  • Dr Mark Berman is a statistician with the Terrestrial Mapping and Monitoring group who provides spectroscopy and hyperspectral image analysis expertise 
  • Dr Lew Whitbourn and Dr Jon Huntington of the Hylogging Systems group who provide physics and geology expertise for building hyperspectral instruments and for interpreting the geological information that they produce.

Find out more about the HyLogging™ systems group: logging mineralogy of drill cores and chips using reflectance spectroscopy.

  • Berman M, Phatak A, Lagerstrom R. 2005. ICE: A statistical approach to identifying endmembers in biomedical hyperspectral images. In: SPIE Proceedings. San Jose, USA. 5694: 62-73.

  • Berman M, Kiiveri H, Lagerstrom R, Ernst A, Dunne R, Huntington J. 2004. ICE: A statistical approach to identifying endmembers. In: IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing. 42: 2085-2095.