Contact lenses with night vision could be on the way thanks to graphene breakthrough

Lenses made from the atom-thick 'wonder material' could be used in phones or even contact lenses to make night vision available for all

Night vision technology has been around for a while, but it's only really used by professionals (or professional creeps) due to its prohibitive size.

But what if night vision was something you could fit into a pair of contact lenses? You could keep a pair in your bag to slip in if you were going to be walking home alone in the dark, or even use them to take a night-time jaunt through a forest without spooking all the animals.

All this and more could be possible in the future thanks to a new development by researchers in the US using graphene lenses to sense “the full infrared spectrum” plus visible and ultraviolet light.

"We can make the entire design super-thin," said Zhaohui  Zhong, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Michigan. "It can be stacked on a contact lens or integrated with a cell phone."

Current night vision technology needs bulky cooling equipment to stop the detectors getting confused by their own heat radiation, but the graphene-based models can do the same job using just a few layers of the atom-thick material.

The most effective night vision technology works by capturing the infrared portion of the light spectrum – this is the part that is emitted as heat by objects, instead of reflected as light.

Even the smallest and most modern night vision tech is pretty bulky.

Zhong suggests that the infrared-capturing graphene lenses could therefore be used for more than just night vision. The technology could help doctors monitor blood flow without having to move a patient or subject them to any scans, or be used by art historians to examine layers of paint underneath the surface. It’s not quite X-ray vision but it’s pretty damn close.

 Previous attempts to use graphene in this way have suffered from the material’s insensitivity towards parts of the light spectrum. The team from Michigan’s breakthrough was to create a sandwich of layers, with an insulating barrier placed between two slices of graphene and an electrical current sent through the bottom part.

When the infrared light hits the top layer of graphene it dislodges electrons as normal (this is, in effect, the signal that gets ‘seen’ by the eye) a process that is then amplified by the electrical current. And hey presto (or some other, more scientific, phrase) you get night vision.

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

Contact lenses seem to be a consistent draw for technologists looking to augment human ability – most likely due to their inconspicuous nature – and previous efforts in this area have included Google’s prototype that monitors blood sugar, and a contact lens that has optical zoom.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Sport
England captain Wayne Rooney during training
FOOTBALLNew captain vows side will deliver against Norway for small crowd
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
News
peopleJustin Bieber charged with assault and dangerous driving after crashing quad bike into a minivan
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Sport
Radamel Falcao poses with his United shirt
FOOTBALLRadamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant in Colombia to Manchester United's star signing
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    C# Client-Side Developer (JMS, Integration, WCF, ASP.NET, SQL)

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Client-Side...

    Front-Office Developer (C#, .NET, Java, AI)

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-Office D...

    C# Software Engineer (ASP.NET, C#, CSS, Java Script, JQuery)

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits, Training & Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# S...

    Systems Administrator (SharePoint) - Central London - £36,500

    £35000 - £36500 per annum: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator (SharePoint) -...

    Day In a Page

    Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

    Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

    The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
    Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

    Stolen youth

    Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
    Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

    Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

    He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
    Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

    Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

    Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
    Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

    Made by Versace, designed by her children

    Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
    Anyone for pulled chicken?

    Pulling chicks

    Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
    9 best steam generator irons

    9 best steam generator irons

    To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
    England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

    Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

    New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
    ‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

    ‘We knew he was something special’

    Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York