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New tech ‘will change night vision landscape forever’

New infrared night vision technology that is extremely lightweight, cheap and easy to mass produce could be applied to standard glasses and make it safer to drive at night, Australian researchers claim.

A team from the Australian National University (ANU) has developed a first-of-its-kind thin film, based on nanoscale crystals, that allows people to see clearly in the dark.

Lead researcher Dr Rocio Camacho Morales said they have made the invisible, visible.

“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 distance,” she said.

“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.”

Currently, high-end infrared imaging technology requires cryogenic freezing to work and are costly to produce. This new system works at room temperatures.

Dr Rocio Camacho Morales is a post doctoral fellow at the Department of Electronic Materials Engineering, Research School of Physics at the Australian National University. Image: Jamie Kidston/ANU

Mr Dragomir Neshev, director of the ARC Centre for Excellence in Transformative Meta-Optical Systems (TMOS) and ANU Professor in Physics, said the technology used meta-surfaces to 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,” Neshev said.

“It’s a really exciting development and one that we know will change the landscape for night vision forever.”

The new technology has been developed by an international team of researchers from TMOS, ANU, Nottingham Trent University, UNSW and European partners.

Mr Mohsen Rahmani, leader of the Advanced Optics and Photonics Lab in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Science and Technology, led the development of the nanoscale crystal films.

“We previously demonstrated the potential of individual nanoscale crystals, but to exploit them in our everyday life, we had to overcome enormous challenges to arrange the crystals in an array fashion,” he said.

“While this is the first proof-of-concept experiment, we are actively working to further advance the technology.”

The researchers say the technology, described in Advanced Photonics, would make it easier and safer for police and security guards, who regularly employ night vision, to perform their duties, reducing chronic neck injuries from currently bulky night-vision devices.

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