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A New Practical Use For Graphene Will Revolutionise Night Vision Technology

Night vision goggles. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Researchers have developed a light detector which could revolutionise chemical sensing and night
vision technology.

In the latest issue of the journal Nature Nanotechnology, a team of researchers at Monash University, the University of Maryland in the US and the US Naval Research Laboratory have created a light detector based on graphene, a single sheet of interconnected carbon atoms.

The detector can detect light over an unusually broad range of wavelengths, including terahertz waves, which are between infrared and microwave radiation where sensitive light detection is most difficult.

Professor Michael Fuhrer at Monash says the research could lead to a generation of light detectors which could see below the surface of walls and other objects.

“We have demonstrated light detection from terahertz to near-infrared frequencies, a range about 100 times larger than the visible spectrum,” Professor Fuhrer says.

“Detection of infrared and terahertz light has numerous uses, from chemical analysis to night vision
goggles and body scanners used in airport security.”

Current applications for terahertz detection are limited, as they need to be kept extremely cold to maintain sensitivity.

Existing detectors that work at room temperature are bulky, slow and expensive.

Professor Fuhrer says the new detector works at room temperature and is already as sensitive as any existing room-temperature detector technology in the terahertz range but is also more than a million times faster.

The device is easily manufactured and could lead to inexpensive infrared cameras or night-vision goggles.

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