Australian Researchers Working On Making Night Vision Technology Functional For A Pair Of Glasses

Once considered to be mainly for military or police use, night vision goggles have certainly proliferated in our society. Maybe it’s from seeing the technology utilized in action movies and video games, but many regular civilians are quickly ordering up their own pair of goggles. Sometimes it can be for home surveillance purposes; mostly it’s just to mess around with them. In any case, it’s a neat gadget to have in your repertoire if you’re a tech head.

The biggest annoyance with a set of goggles, however, is how heavy and cumbersome they are. This has always been a common problem, more so in dangerous military situations where greater ease of mobility is desperately needed in life-or-death scenarios. Those chunky headsets just aren’t cutting it anymore.

Traditionally, night vision goggles work by taking photons (or light particles), converting them to electricity and then projecting them back to your eye as photons. This process generally requires a good deal or energy and space to happen, hence the large size of the apparatus.

Recent work coming out of the Australian National University, however, may change all of this. By developing tiny nano crystals that can sit on an ultra-thin film, researchers are hoping that this will result in night vision goggles that are really just a pair of glasses.

The nano crystals are made of aluminum-gallium-arsenide, an alloy that you would find in your cell phone. They attract photons of infrared light and merge them with a photon manufactured by a laser (like something that would be in various home electronics) to produce an image that we can see. According to Professor DragomirNeshev, it’s possible that we could even see colours in this new night vision.

“Warmer should look bluish and cooler would seem reddish,” Neshev said. “But we won’t really know until we see it ourselves.”

This technology is still very much in its infancy, however, as it’s only dealt with single frequency, high-intensity infrared light. In reality, night vision goggles have to take in complex multi-frequency and diffuse light from a whole environment. Apparently, expanding the range of nano crystals to different sizes will help with this, making the device able to handle a range of frequencies. And since, according to professor Mohsen Rahmani, “You can fit four or five million crystals on one square millimeter substrate,” there are going to an unthinkably high level of crystals covering the surface of the glasses.

Nevertheless, the research team aims won’t have a complete working prototype ready for another five years or so. The next step is to get support from DARPA, the research and development branch of the US Department of Defence, since this will be a vital tool for their needs.

But since they’ll just be a pair of lightweight glasses, the research team imagines a host of possibilities for everyday civilian use. “[It could be used] in anti-counterfeit devices in bank notes, imaging cells for medical applications and holograms,” said Neshev.

Rahmani added, “We should be able to apply it to any glass surface, such as your car windscreen, which could help with night driving safety.”

In other words, the future is now.