Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has developed a search and rescue device that can detect a human heartbeat buried in nine metres of rubble, behind six metres of concrete from 30 metres away.
It can even distinguish it from other living creatures that could confuse a signal.
In an utterly superb example of an acronym, the Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response - FINDER - is currently undergoing modifications which could see a commercialised version as as spring next year.
John Price, program manager at the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate, who collaborated in the research said: "Testing proved successful in locating a task force member buried in 30 feet of mixed concrete, rebar and gravel rubble from a distance of over 30 feet.
"his capability will complement the current urban search and rescue tools such as canines, listening devices and video cameras to detect the presence of living victims in rubble."
JPL uses advanced data processing systems to pick out faint signals.
The microwave radar technology is sensitive enough to distinguish the unique signature of a human's breathing pattern and heartbeat from that of other living creatures, such as rats.
The advantage of this technology is to allow first responders to quickly ascertain if a living human is present in the debris.
The technology is sensitive enough that victims, whether conscious or not, can easily be detected, which helps responders decide the most efficient course of action.