Graphene is a remarkable artificial material. It is stronger than a diamond and the most efficient conductor of electricity known to man. Graphene consists of bonded carbon atoms arranged in a sheet just one atom thick, making it possible to apply its unique properties to a vast spectrum of scientific applications. Vision technology is one area where the introduction of graphene and associated engineering techniques is leading to rapid, large-scale innovation.
Night Vision Benefits from Cutting-Edge Experiments Using Graphene
Night vision is among the most challenging applications of vision technology. Most implementations depend on relatively large sensors detecting infrared light from environmental heat sources and amplifying their temperature differences into a cohesive picture. Night vision is essential for police, military, search and rescue, and a variety of other applications.
Until recently, image quality provided by conventional night vision sensors has been relatively low. Now, new applications of graphene could vastly improve this vision technology. Some advantages are based on the unique optical and conductive properties of graphene, while others utilize its efficiency, coupling it with leading-edge engineering techniques.
MIT Breakthrough Suggests Better Night Vision Cameras are Around the Corner
Research published by an MIT team in the journal Nano Letters suggests new designs supplemented by graphene could dramatically transform the way night vision technology is used in the field. Night vision could come to rely on compact, highly efficient sensors integrated into much smaller devices.
Graphene detects infrared light remarkably well, so new designs could take advantage of its properties and use cryogenic cooling to reduce excess heat. This would result in a much crisper night vision image than attainable using today’s vision technology. The proposed technology uses micro-scale MEMS machinery to reduce weight and enhance performance.
By building on these concepts, it may be possible to go beyond typical night vision detection to create full-sized infrared screens. This would drive infrared detection into the consumer market: It could appear in cell phones, laptops, or even in windshields to mitigate night driving risks. No doubt, an array of novel applications would also arise.
Graphene is Facilitating a New Generation of 3D Cameras
3D cameras are not new, particularly in industrial markets. However, these, too, suffer from some performance limitations. Using graphene, it may soon become possible to replace the array of cameras from which 3D images are synthesized today. Instead, a single camera will be able to capture and record 3D images entirely on its own.
3D cameras with graphene could see a wide variety of uses outside the manufacturing and logistics contexts most familiar to today’s advanced imaging technology. If attached to a microscope, such a camera could provide unprecedented clarity when investigating cells and tissues. This could lead to tremendous improvement in diagnostic technology, particularly in the field of oncology.
Graphene is one of the most exciting products of modern materials science. Considering the many and varied innovations it has already supported, graphene stands to become central to vision technology's future.