Featured by New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering.

Hyperspectral imaging can help researchers studying the built environment distinguish between materials like stone and concrete that is colored and finished to look like stone without the need to be directly on-site. Professor of Civil and Urban Engineering Debra Laefer, who is also affiliated with NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP), recently collaborated with colleagues in Ireland to prove that this same technology can also identify different samples within a single type of material, such as concrete with a higher-than-recommended water content.

It thus becomes possible to identify weak materials in the building’s façade or piece of infrastructure without touching it — an important innovation given that most traditional materials-testing procedures require actually destroying samples.

The research is of great practical use to a wide variety of stakeholders, including building owners, developers, and preservationists, who may now have a new technique to quickly investigate the integrity of in-place construction materials and use that data to inform their respective activities.