Scientists at the Australian National University have developed new technology that could allow night vision with regular eyeglasses.
“We’ve made a very thin film, consisting of nanometre-scale crystals, hundreds of times thinner than a human hair, that can be directly applied to glasses and acts as a filter, allowing you to see in the darkness of the night,” said lead researcher Dr. Rocio Camacho Morales.
The technology could have applications in security and defense work and in helping people to drive safely at night.
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Researchers from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Transformative Meta-Optical Systems (TMOS) have worked with Nottingham Trent University, the University of New South Wales and unnamed European partners to develop a prototype for new night-vision technology.
The researchers say the nanoscale crystal-based prototype is likely to find applications in defence before making its way to the consumer market.
TMOS claims the technology creates an all-optical alternative to existing systems with compact ultra-thin nanocrystal layers that could work as a filter on standard binoculars, enabling night vision.
‘We have made the invisible visible,’ said lead researcher Dr Rocio Camacho Morales. ‘Our technology is able to transform infrared light, normally invisible to the human eye, and turn this into images people can clearly see — even at [a] distance.’
Prof Dragomir Neshev, director of TMOS, said the thin films manipulate light in new ways: ‘This is the first time anywhere in the world that infrared light has been successfully transformed into visible images in an ultra-thin screen. It’s a really exciting development and one that we know will change the landscape for night vision forever.’
As the new thin-film solution is lightweight, TMOS claims it would reduce the risk of neck injuries that comes with frequent use of standard night vision goggles.
Currently available high-end IR imaging technology needs cryogenic freezing to work and is costly to produce. ‘This new tech works at room temperatures,’ TMOS claimed, and is therefore less expensive to manufacture.