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Friday, March 21, 2014

Big Breakthrough May Bring Night-Vision Contact Lenses

Big Breakthrough May Bring Night-Vision Contact Lenses

Researchers have discovered a way for contact lenses to be transformed into infrared night vision lenses using a "super-thin" layer of graphene.

A prototype has already been developed by the team from the University of Michigan, whose research is published in Nature Nanotechnology.

It is the first infrared detector capable of being used on something as thin as a contact lens.

"We can make the design super-thin," said Zhaohui Zhong, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Michigan. "It can be stacked on a contact lens or integrated with a cell phone."

Big Breakthrough May Bring Night-Vision Contact Lenses

It is already known that graphene - a material made of a single layer of carbon atoms - can be used to sense the whole of the infrared spectrum. However, up until now it has not been able to capture enough light to be a viable means of infrared detection.

"The challenge for the current generation of graphene-based detectors is that their sensitivity is typically very poor," Zhong said. "It's a hundred to a thousand times lower than what a commercial device would require."

By pioneering a new way to detect light using an electrical signal generated through the light-induced charge in the graphene, Zhong and his team were able to overcome this obstacle.

Big Breakthrough May Bring Night-Vision Contact Lenses
"We envision that people will be able to adopt this same mechanism in other material and device platforms," Zhong said. "If we integrate it with a contact lens or other wearable electronics, it expands your vision. It provides you another way of interacting with your environment."

The researchers believe the technology will be most likely used within a military capacity, however, depending on demand it could also find application in consumer technologies.


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