From The Editors Science

Breakthrough in Night Vision Technology by Australian Scientists

The Australian National University (ANU) Scientists have made a pioneering breakthrough by creating a nanocrystal supposed to be 500 times smaller than the human hair and has shown the ability to convert darkness into visible light, is the simplest way to describe the discovery that involved fifteen years of research.

The discovery may be in its fledgling stage but has the potential to revolutionize night time vision technology, in that, they can replace the cumbersome and rather bulky night vision Goggles, in use currently, into a regular set of glasses in addition to its capacity for other uses as well.

According to Professor Dragomir Neshev of the ANU, “The nanocrystals are so small they could be fitted to normal eyeglasses to enable night vision.”

What this, basically, means is that the nanocrystal can be incorporated into your normal prescribed glasses, or even zero-power lenses, by simply adding it as an extremely thin layer over the glasses enabling night vision.

The professor added, “This tiny device could have other exciting uses including bank notes, imaging cells for medical applications and holograms”.

So, what exactly is a nanocrystal? Scientifically accepted as a material particle with a minimum of one dimension smaller than 100 nanometers, a ‘nanoparticle’ is made up of atoms in a single or poly-crystalline arrangement according to Wikipedia’s explanation.

Researchers at ANU have developed a nanocrystal that could allow for night vision technology to be applied to a conventional pair of glasses(Credit:Stuart Hay, ANU)
Researchers at ANU have developed a nanocrystal that could allow for night vision technology to be applied to a conventional pair of glasses.(Credit:Stuart Hay, ANU)

Co-researcher Dr. Mohsen Rahmani who happens to be the recipient of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award based at the Australia National University (ANU) Research School of Physics and Engineering says, “These semiconductor nanocrystals can transfer the highest intensity of light and engineer complex light beams that could be used with a laser to project a holographic image in modern displays,”

The basic concept, which took 15 years of research work to prove, that the new nanocrystal has the ability to change the light in three important and possible ways: the intensity of light, the shape of light, and the color of light. What this means is, with the combination of the three, very low levels of light like night time and dark places can be converted into visibility.

“This is the first time anyone has been able to achieve this feat because growing a nano semiconductor on a transparent material is very difficult,” said Ms. Camacho-Morales from the Nonlinear Physics Centre at ANU.

The Night Vision Device (NVD), which is currently in use, is a complex process which enables visibility in levels of light near total darkness. The image produced is typically monochrome, e.g. shades of green. NVDs are most often used by the military and law enforcement agencies but are available to civilian users as well.

Night Vision Devices (NVDs) comes as a unit complete with an image intensifier tube, a protective water resistant covering or ‘housing’ and a mounting system. Other components that come along with the NVD unit include optical apparatus like a ‘sacrificial lens’ or telescopic lenses. It may also come with an Infra Red illuminator which will make it an active instead of a passive night vision device (NVD).

However, all this may change with the new ANU discovery, which is still very much at its nascent stage, hopefully not in the too distant future especially its application in the medical field.

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