Scientists discover method of creating nightvision contact lenses

7 Apr 2014

Nightvision image via Wikimedia Commons

Contact lenses enabling the wearer to see infrared light could be made available to consumers now that a team from Michigan Engineering has discovered a method to produce the lenses.

Until now, nightvision technology has largely involved bulky headsets that would have been mostly used by military and security personnel.

Now, however, using the new wonder material graphene, it will be possible to place all the technology in a super-thin contact lens.

In an article highlighted by The Verge explaining the team’s work, the lenses function by using infrared light starting at wavelengths just longer than those of visible red light which will stretch to wavelengths of up to a millimetre long.

As infrared technology works by absorbing light and turning it into an electrical signal, in most cases to the colour green, previous forms of graphene were found to have a very poor rate of absorption at only 2.3pc.

For the Michigan Engineering team’s graphene however, an insulating barrier layer was placed between two graphene sheets.

With a current running through the bottom layer, the light hitting the top layer freed electrons and thereby created positively charged holes.

Following this, the electrons used a method the team describes as ‘quantum mechanical’ to slip through the barrier and into the bottom layer of graphene.

Speaking of the team’s findings, Zhaohui Zhong, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, said he has high hopes for the technology.

“Our work pioneered a new way to detect light. We envision that people will be able to adopt this same mechanism in other material and device platforms.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic