Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev say they have developed low-cost infrared sensors that can be used to create the world’s thinnest night-vision glasses as well as revolutionize smartphones and self-driving cars.
Prof. Gabby Sarusi, faculty member in the Unit of Electro-Optical Engineering and the Ilse Katz Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology, has developed a stamp-like device of which one side reads 1,500-nanometer infrared wavelengths, and converts them to images that are visible to the human eye on the other side of the stamp. This stamp — basically a film that is half a micron in thickness — is composed of nano-metric layers, nano-columns and metal foil, which transform infrared images into visible images.
The film can be put in front of normal glasses or telescopes, Sarusi said, transforming them into infrared devices. Or it can be placed onto simple vision sensors, transforming them into infrared sensors with the ability to see objects that the human eye cannot.
The technology could help replace the heavy night goggles used by soldiers with lightweight, low-power consumption glasses, he said. The technology relies upon nanotech and physics, with the only electronic component being a small battery, he said.
But there are wider and even more interesting applications to the technology, Sarusi said — for example, in the area of autonomous cars. Such a device could be used on sensors for autonomous cars to improve vision, by converting infrared light into visible light and allowing better vision in fog and darkness.
In addition, infrared sensors are not affected by sunlight, something that confuses today’s regular sensors.
An infrared sensor costs around $3,000, Sarusi said. A regular vision sensor used by autonomous cars costs $1-$2. So, by adding the nanotech layers, which cost around $5, Sarusi said, one can get an infrared sensor for about $7-$8.